Friday, October 01, 2010

Review of Campbell’s Deliverance PART 8

A summary review PART 8
of Campbell, Douglas A. The Deliverance of God: An Apocalyptic Rereading of Justification in Paul. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 2009

In this post we complete our analysis of DC’s portrayal of the First Phase of JT. In the next post we will detail the nature of the Second Phase before turning to look at the important matter of the ‘root metaphors’ of JT.

The introspective twist

So far, this First Phase is nothing unusual. However, the point of all of it is to drive the sinner into a second, Christian phase. ‘How it achieves this pressure is quite ingenious, involving, first the rigor with which the law is upheld and, second, a principal of introversion’ (19).

The rigor may either be interpreted as the demand for total obedience, or obedience which outweighs disobedience – though the former tends to trump the latter (cf. the Westminster Confession of Faith: 'The first covenant made with man was a covenant of works, wherein life was promised to Adam; and in him to his posterity, upon condition of perfect and personal obedience'). But either way, the point is that obedience is impossible – it leads to condemnation. Hence the second point: ‘People are supposed to reflect on their own condition in the light of the demands of the law and to realize that they fall short if the requisite obedience’ (20). We all sin and everyone who look at themselves honestly, who examine themselves enough, will realise this (cf. aspects of the autobiographies of Luther and Augustine at this point!)
The loop of despair

Hence, some poor folk may simply ‘try harder’, ‘pull up their moral bootstraps’ as Tom Wright may phrase it. But this will fail, generating a loop of despair (hence, I am tempted to add, Luther, his probable OCD and his anguished conscience – cf. Osborn, Ian. Can Christianity Cure Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder?: A Psychiatrist Explores the Role of Faith in Treatment. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Brazos Press, 2008).

The loop of foolishness

Of course there will be some fools who, having confronted the reality of themselves (introspected), fail to realise the gravity of the situation and boast in their own righteousness. These hypocritical folk, though truly destined to doom, are terribly deceived, and this explains why the pious are often the wost kind of people, and liable to the most guilt.

The next post completes our overview of JT according its logical progression.



At 10/03/2010 1:44 AM, Anonymous Rob said...

Hi Chris,

i'm thoroughly enjoying your posts on DOG. I find Campbell's analysis of JT and features such as the loop of despair etc.. spot on and totally consonant with my years of experience with evangelical church/sermons/christian literature and my work among christian uni students and church young adults. IMO to insist that JT does not exist is demonstrably false while the protests that JT is not held by this particular scholar or the other one is unhelpful and does not advance the conversation. We can debate the details and nuances but the general big picture Campbell paints seems to be clearly evident in much popular evangelical preaching/teaching and writing, in the semi-academic work of influential spokespeople such as John Piper and DA Carson as well as in many academic Romans commentaries.
Keep up the good work Chris!

At 10/03/2010 5:36 AM, Blogger Andrew said...


At various times when talking to people about why I think a PPME-version gospel is superior to a JT version, I meet a response along the lines of "But what about people suffering from the overly-anguished-conscience mental disorder? Your gospel doesn't solve their mental issues. Therefore your gospel cannot be correct."

I tend to roll my eyes at this, and think that anyone who assumes in advance that the gospel ought to cater to solving mental disorders is making a massive and totally unjustifiable assumption. But this is an assumption I see being made over and over by people, and I think it has a lot to do with people being indoctrinated to think that this "loop of despair" is normal. The result is a widespread belief that the gospel ought to bring comfort to a person suffering from this particular type of mental disorder, and if it doesn't, then it can't be the true gospel.

At 10/03/2010 6:24 AM, Blogger Andrew said...

I would also second Rob's comments that I find Campbell's analysis of JT to be totally reminiscent of things I have heard taught again and again among evangelicals who had a strong biblical/theological bent or interest.

However, something jarring I did note to myself when reading DOG, is that I have also dealt with a lot of lay evangelicals over the years who didn't seem to hold any first phase of JT beliefs. To these second-phase-only-ers the 'gospel' is solely "choose to believe in Christ now and go to heaven" and contains no teachings whatsoever on Judaism, sin, introspection etc. The people in this group are not academically/scholarly inclined and would not be able to exegete Romans, and have never had a moment's thought about the state of Jews before Christ came or anything like that. These Christians have simply learned the second phase of the JT gospel and repeat that, without ever having been taught the first. As I read DOG, and found DC focusing so much on the problems of phase 1, I did wonder a bit how he categorizes these phase-2-only-ers, or how he would critique their position. To my mind they do hold JT, but they leave out virtually all the bits that DC objects to.

At 10/04/2010 12:47 AM, Blogger Butters said...

Could it be argued at all that JT can be found elsewhere in the NT (I'm not necessarily suggesting it can I'm just asking)?

Andrew - Random question: Are you Tercel on Tweb?


At 10/06/2010 3:03 PM, Anonymous Jeff said...

This is very helpful. This understanding of JT certainly sounds like what I hear from Evangelicals in the "American Bible Belt" where I live. I have integrated this somewhat in my own thought. I am anxious to see the alternative. Thanks Chris

At 10/07/2010 11:03 AM, Blogger Andrew said...

Butters: Yes and yes.

Some JT advocates will try and find JT [i]everywhere[/i]... sometimes I wonder if they can see it staring back at them when they look in their coffee. (I've seen it argued that Jesus' use of the word "cup" proves JT.) But basically, outside of Paul, the only JT passage of note in the NT is 1 Pet 2:24. I agree with Campbell's assessment in DOG that JT fundamentally seeks exegetical justification in a certain reading of Rom 1-4, and that in addition to that there are a handful of other passages in Paul's letters that help bolster JT's exegetical case but don't spell it out in its entirety.

At 10/08/2010 3:19 AM, Blogger Butters said...

Interesting. I have to say, the phrase 'throwing the baby out with the bath water' did come to mind a few times as I was reading DC's demolishion of JT, although I heavily agreed with many of his points. (For example, although I found his appeal to statistics about religous conversion a bit odd, I certainly agree that his description of how people come to faith seems to be in line with what generally happens with people, rather than the 'crisis' of JT)

I wouldn't mind picking up on this, though:

"But what about people suffering from the overly-anguished-conscience mental disorder? Your gospel doesn't solve their mental issues. Therefore your gospel cannot be correct."

I wouldn't reserve such inward struggles for those with mental issues. I reckon it effects most Christians at some time in some form or other.

At 10/08/2010 11:54 PM, Blogger Chris Tilling said...

Thanks to you all for your comments.

Andrew, certainly cures for mental disorders should not be seen as a determinative criterion. But I wouldn't bracket it out entirely!

I look forward to engaging with these matters when we hit on them straight on


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