Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Review of Campbell’s Deliverance PART 12

A summary review PART 12
of Campbell, Douglas A. The Deliverance of God: An Apocalyptic Rereading of Justification in Paul. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 2009

We continue our overview of DC’S list of Justification Theory’s intrinsic difficulties

From http://www.insidesocal.com/godblog
4) Anthropology. ‘Justification theory presupposes in humans an inherent ability to deduce and appropriately fulfil the truth of certain axioms and, at the same time, a profound universal sinfulness – that is, fundamental and simultaneous capacity and incapacity’ (44). This say it all, really! Strategies which seek to evade this point, by proposing dualistic metaphors (mind / body, inner / outer etc.) fail as they need to be understood literally, not metaphorically, to actually work (I would add: how often popular apologetics works on the understanding that human reason, on the basis of universal foundations, should lead to Christian faith. For some, there can even be a hint of 'you must be stupid not to be a Christian')

5) Theodicy. ‘Justification theory posits a God of strict justice who holds all people accountable to a standard they are intrinsically unable to attain, and this seems unjust’ (45). In accordance with the theory’s first phase (or ‘vestibule’), it is those who are not perfect (irrespective of whether they generally live their lives at personal risk for the sake of others, and likewise claim no perfection) who will be judged. Surely one could ‘lower the bar’ and relax the demand for perfect obedience? However, JT best works when this first phase is entirely rigorous as it aims to drive sinful humans to embrace the gospel.

Linked to this point, Is it just that one’s own deserved punishment is transferred to Christ, a transfer accessed by faith? Does not retributive justice demand that sinners themselves be held accountable and punished? Is justice really satisfied on this count, as JT claims, if somebody else, an innocent, is punished for another’s sin? So DC writes: ‘Justification theory is not just, even though it claims to be’ (49).
When, at this point, DC refutes a strategy to mask this particular intrinsic difficult with JT, something struck me. I personally think it at least likely that Luther suffered from a religious expression of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, and that his understanding of God’s grace was something of a cure for him, as it was, in different ways, for John Bunyan and Saint Thérèse of Lisieux (cf. Ian Osborn, Can Christianity Cure Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder?: A Psychiatrist Explores the Role of Faith in Treatment [Grand Rapids, Mich.: Brazos Press, 2008]). While it is evident that the pious and confessional frame of 'confession of sin' is usually enough to justify notions of personal sinfulness (it is right to acknowledge our sinfulness before God), a problem can exist here. ‘[I]n so reasoning, Justification advocates have essentially repositioned a legitimate Christian activity in a location that renders that activity incoherent and, moreover, calls God’s character radically into question’ (47). Yes! Here is a question that I hope will help sufferers of religious variations of OCD, to rethink some of there practices (nothing like a bit of cognitive-behavioural therapy in the middle of a book review!): Is the context of your personal sin-confession God’s own gracious ‘yes’ to us in Jesus, or rather a ritualistic and self-atoning mechanism by which God’s holy justice is appeased? The difference here is considerable. It is the difference between Justification Theory and the apocalytpic gospel DC will suggest Paul truly advocates.



At 11/04/2010 5:27 PM, Blogger MrErr said...

I find that in Romans 1 even though Paul uses natural revelation, he is still developing his theology under the Law. Which is why he keep referring to Jews first than Greeks. Other verses that point to this is Romans 3:29-31. In no way is the Law being overthrown! So the claim that JT that we are sinful because of natural revelation (phase 1) and it is response to this that Jesus has come (phase 2) does not fit the context. Jesus came because the Law could not save.

At 11/06/2010 2:16 AM, Blogger Andrew said...

It seems to me that DC's complaints about JT's anthropology totally ignore the possibility of limited capacity.

I agree with all the various points DC makes in his Theodicy section. He refers to a number of good anti-JT points here. I'm a little surprised though that he lumped so many good and different points into one category, and a little disappointed that he just states them without dealing with the various counter-arguments that have been raised over the years by JT defenders.

eg DC notes that standard retributive justice requires not only that punishment happen but that the guilty person themselves be the one punished. However JT defenders would point to cases like where a diplomat represents a nation and argue that it situations where you have a person voluntarily representing a group whom all sides agree to be the representative of that group, then you have a more complex situation in which more complex rules apply. While I personally think such a defense of JT ultimately fails, this is the standard defense made and many people seem to find this defense plausible and hence I think DC needs to deal with it - or at the very least cite another work which deals with this argument.


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