Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Review of Campbell’s Deliverance PART 11

A summary review PART 11
of Campbell, Douglas A. The Deliverance of God: An Apocalyptic Rereading of Justification in Paul. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 2009

The following chapters will examine various problems with the contractual soteriology of JT i.e. the system of soteriology involved in conventional readings of Romans 1-4 (remember: it is not a description of anybody's soteriology in toto, but an elaboration of the theoretical commitments of the conventional, non-rhetorical, reading of these chapters, one which does indeed have a more extensive grip on popular theologies)

Intrinsic Difficulties

Chapter two carefully and fairly (i.e. he always engages with the best counter arguments) examines the ways in which JT ‘breaks down internally, that is, in strictly theoretical terms’ (37). DC proposes that the following seven points of internal tension or incoherence must be admitted:

1) Epistemology. JT proposes a journey from the First Phase, ‘the rigorous contract’, to the second, ‘the generous contract’. The two phases must thus be integrated. However, two epistemologies are at work, one based on universal and ahistorical truths available to the ‘generic, philosophical individual’ (38), while the Second Phase posits an ‘irreducibly temporal and historical’ knowledge, based on scripture, the man Jesus Christ etc.

2) Natural revelation. ‘The first phase of Justification theory depends on individuals’ detection within the cosmos of a series of propositions’ (39) involving certain truths about God such as monotheism,  and God’s retributive justice (cf. Rom. 1:18-23), as well as a full ethical system, with special reference to monogamy and heterosexuality (cf. Rom. 1:29-31). However, ‘the rational derivation of this set of propositions seems to be impossible’ (40). Even if a vague notion of the existence of God could be proved, which is highly debatable, can one really philosophise their way to this god’s concern about sexual relations? ‘This model creates, in short, the very situation is seeks to deny: a self-confident atheism’ (943 n.10)! Can it be denied that modes of Christian faith, which most strongly emphasise JT, also assert aggressive apologetic schemes which seek to ‘prove God’?

3) Law. ‘Justification theory asserts two sets of law within one soteriology committed to a just God and perfect obedience – a dual system that is incoherent in terms of both content and desert’ (41). Ask yourself, can the details of Jewish law be discerned from the cosmos, such as the prohibition on cutting forelocks (Deut. 14:1)? Hardly. So, one must thus argue that Mosaic law is distinguishable, at some level, from natural law. Pagans must only abide by natural law for JT to function coherently. However, this would mean, if the Jewish law does truly represent God’s ethical concerns, that natural law is inadequate, that God considers some things important for Jews but not for pagans – which ultimately leads to a law which is, in terms of content, incoherent. And if two people groups have different divine demands to uphold for salvation (the Jews get the harder, longer set!), then this seems unfair in terms of desert. Interestingly, this ties into tactics which problematically distinguish, in a priori fashion, between ‘ceremonial’ and ‘moral’ law (DC demonstrates why this hermeneutical sleight of hand fails, with due recognition of Klaus Berger’s defence, and Heikki Räisänen’s pointed critique in his Paul and the Law).

The next two posts complete DC's overview of Justification Theory's internal difficulties



At 10/13/2010 2:48 PM, Blogger Jeff Marx said...

when you say a "non-rhetorical" view could you flesh that out a bit. Sorry if I am dense.

At 10/13/2010 11:26 PM, Blogger Andrew said...

I did find it a bit strange, as I read through Campbell's various objections to JT, just how much variation there was among them in my opinion from 'convincing' through 'interesting' through 'totally not a valid objection'.

I found DC's Epistemology argument completely unconvincing. In life, we often discover some problem ourselves and can't see a way of solving it, and so we go ask someone else what the answer is. I don't see how JT is any different to this - we discover the problem of sin ourselves, and then need the answer to be handed to us. Nothing wrong, or unusual about that. It somewhat irked me the way DC kept re-referencing this non-point repeatedly throughout the book as if it were one of his best arguments.

At 10/15/2010 11:34 AM, Blogger Chris Tilling said...

Hi Jeff, not dense at all! I haven't yet discussed it, but I will get to it. DC has a brilliant proposal which suggests that large parts of Romans 1-4 actually represents the position of the (false) Teachers. It was an argument that left me thoroughly unpersuaded the first time I read it, but now I basically agree as I see all the pieces fall into place.

Hi Andrew, thanks again for your helpful commentary, I really value it. I suppose DC would respond that for JT to work as a complete theory, a consistent epistemology (not a self-contradictory one) is necessary. Sure, in life things work differently, but this is a an analysis of the theoretical integrity of JT.

At 10/16/2010 6:17 AM, Blogger Andrew said...

When first reading DOG I read through these arguments relatively quickly, always meaning to come back to them with a fine tooth comb. Since I am anti-JT myself, and am going to publish an anti-JT book in the very near future, I am always on the lookout for good anti-JT arguments. Up until now I had not gone back to DC’s arguments here to look at them carefully, but your post Chris has inspired me to go back and look at DC’s arguments here carefully.

1) DC’s Epistemology argument.
It seems to me that his general point here can be countered by the observation that in life we often discover a problem ourselves but not the solution and so need to be handed a solution. I can also identify two other arguments DC makes in this section:
(i) The type of person (highly-introspective) who is likely to discover, realize, and admit to themselves honestly the ‘problem of sin’, is not the type of person who is likely to non-introspective religious answers very convincing or believable.
(ii) Implicit in JT is the idea that only those who have heard ‘the message’ can be saved.
I’m inclined to agree with (ii) and think ‘yeah, possibly’ to (i). But my big issue here is that DC’s arguments here seem to stop short of the finish line. DC needs to add some more premises in order to reach a conclusion that reads “JT is wrong/bad/inconsistent”. I’m read lots of Christians making arguments against a JT-type paradigm that started from (ii) and went on to make an argument about why it’s a bad thing that only those who have heard the message can be saved, and thus why this makes JT bad. DC seems to have left out the actual argument, and merely made it to the starting line by noting that JT implies only those who have heard the message can be saved. Well, yes, JT implies that, but so what?

2) Natural Revelation.
I am inclined to wonder if JT really requires that an individual learn God’s moral requirements for general revelation. Because I believe that most JT advocates think that God’s moral requirements are learned from special revelation. I think DC’s portrayal of JT here has deviated from what JT advocates actually teach. Now DC might argue of course, that his portrayal is a more logically consistent version of what they actually teach, but I think he’d have a hard time of it. Equally DC could argue that in Romans 1 the condemnation is grounded in general revelation, so here JT advocates diverge from Romans 1. But I think most JT advocates would actually read Romans 1 as being far more grounded in special revelation than DC does – eg when Romans 1 says that “they know God’s decree that those who practice such things deserve to die”, most JT advocates would say “Romans and Greeks knew God’s decree historically because the Jews told them, not because they figured it out themselves”. I agree with DC’s basic premise here that it’s highly doubtful that rational individuals analysing general revelation can/should be able to realize that God requires men to follow certain complex moral rules. But I’m not inclined to agree that JT / Romans 1 / JT advocates actually want to make such a claim.
…apparently blogger has a character count limit on comments, so I’ll have to break my post in two…

At 10/16/2010 6:19 AM, Blogger Andrew said...

…part 2…
3) Law
DC seems to me to make two arguments here. His first is:
(i) Can God place two different sets of moral requirements on two different groups?
My first response to that is that it seems perfectly conceivable that he might, given two different historical-social situations. God, presumably, interacts with humans in ways appropriate to their culture, geographical location, neighbouring peoples, needs, etc and this might result in quite different instructions to two sets of groups. If DC wants to make this into an argument he needs to add some more premises and tie it together a lot more tightly.
His second is:
(ii) Can God judgment of two different people groups who lived according to two different sets of laws be just?
Again, it seems quite conceivable that it could and DC needs more premises to make an argument. God might look at how hard humans from each group overall tried to keep their groups set of commandments and judge them on that effort level. More relevant, given JT, is the fact that 100% of humans in both groups will fail to meet God’s criteria. They fail regardless of which set of laws they are being judged on, so it doesn’t matter in the least which set God judges them by. No one will be able to say “oh God, you are unjust, because if you’d judged me by that other set of easier laws that those guys over there had, I’d have passed”, because all humans would fail by both standards. DC rightly notes that most JT advocates take it for granted that God really judges all humans by the lesser pagan standard of moral requirements. DC then tries to make a counter-argument that humans have trouble agreeing on what exactly this pagan standard is. But DC’s counter-observation here is irrelevant – just because humans have trouble agreeing what God’s moral standard is, is not in any way a proof that God himself doesn’t have a standard himself and himself know what it is. Since JT says that all humans fall short of God’s standard, it is relatively unimportant for JT advocates to have certainty about God’s exact moral requirements anyway.

It makes me somewhat sad to say that I find DC’s first three JT-criticisms to be totally without merit. Where DC makes true points, he leaves them hanging as observations about what JT entails and fails to develop them into arguments against JT. In these arguments, the only one showing promise is that premise (1ii) is the start of a possible argument, which could be developed in a number of different directions, and has been by many different anti-JT writers, but DC hasn’t developed it. If DC could prove JT’s actual or logical commitment to morality being known from general revelation and not special revelation, then argument (2) would work, but I’m highly sceptical he can show this.

At 11/04/2010 4:54 PM, Blogger MrErr said...

Just wanted to point out that forgot to put the label "Review of Deliverance of God" on this post.

At 11/04/2010 5:51 PM, Blogger Chris Tilling said...

Andrew, I really appreciate these reflections. Thanks.

And thanks also to you, MrErr. I have made the change.


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