Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Review of Campbell’s Deliverance PART 13

After a nice long blogging silence (I just couldn't be bothered to post anything!), I am keen to get going again on my hopelessly long review summary of Campbell's book. Let's start again on lucky number 13! We are presently in the thick of DC’S list of Justification Theory’s intrinsic difficulties (please see earlier posts for qualifications about what is, and is not, meant by 'Justification Theory'.

A summary review PART 13
of Campbell, Douglas A. The Deliverance of God: An Apocalyptic Rereading of Justification in Paul. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 2009

We complete, today, Campbell’s list of intrinsic difficulties as they relate to Justification theory.

6. Christology and Atonement. ‘Justification theory does not explain why Christ must atone as against other people or things, and especially, in the place of the established temple cultus’ (49). If transfer of punishment is the basis of the atonement, if the key is to make atonement possible and to provide it, why Christ? God surely could have ‘sent a very large bull to atone for the sins of the world’ (49) – perhaps a number, sacrificed weekly or daily, or hourly?

Of course, this discussion necessarily leads to an engagement with Anselm’s Cur Deus Homo (remember, the point here is not whether Paul could have anticipated Anselm, but to what extent JT works at a theoretical level), and for those of you not familiar with his argument may like to read this. In a crude nutshell: Given the debt of human sin, only God can make satisfaction, no number of large bulls will work) so God incarnates himself in the form of a man to pay off this debt in his death on the cross.

A closer look at a key presupposition is required, namely its notion of wrongdoing as ‘a sort of negative currency’ (51 - for justice to be exacted on, for example, a rapist, it is not necessary for the rapist to be raped. Rather, some ‘price’ must be negotiated for the crime). But is it valid, DC asks, ‘to apply such an intermingled economic-equivalence view of punishment to all wrongdoing – and, most importantly, to offenses against God’ (52)? This reduces reality to economic terms, and the Christian church has indeed rightly opposed the notion that ‘all human action is essentially economic’ and that people are ‘fundamentally economic units’ (52). Further, ‘[f]or God to receive a payment from Christ’s death sufficient to pay for the sins of the world, we must then in effect posit a marketplace within God ... [thereby positing] a fundamentally economic view, not merely of reality, but of God Himself!’ (53). What is more, is the metaphorical transition from the value of Christ, to his death understood in terms of price justified (as some maintain, a fundamental difficulty with Marxism is that value is not directly equivalent to price). I can value a freshly ground Panama bean espresso coffee much more even than an expensive Ferrari car, for example! DC gives another example: ‘We value a stable global climate highly, but cannot pay anyone with it’ (54). Yet Anselm requires an equivalence between value and price.

Now monetary imagery is indeed Pauline, but this is used metaphorically not literally – as is necessary for Anselm’s theory to hold good. So, the ‘Anselm defence’ fails to come to the defence of JT which anyway, in terms of satisfaction, operates in terms of strict equivalence (Jesus dies for me as I should die for my sin) rather than substituted payment.

7. Faith. ‘Justification theory harbors a cluster of complex problems with respect to faith, in two main variations. The “Arminian” variant struggles to explain faith fully and, in particular, how individuals can actually exercise faith in order to be saved. The “Calvinist” variant can get beyond these difficulties by introducing revelation and election at the point of faith but then runs into further problems in relation to the privileging of faith and its gifting to individuals who have negotiated phase one ’

Couldn't put it better myself! He explains: ‘[a]lthough popular discourse uses the language of choice and free will ubiquitously in relation to matters of belief, beliefs cannot in fact simply be chosen ... If we really hold something to be true [or untrue], then we cannot alter that simply by choice’. An act of will cannot alter our beliefs. If it is responded, in good Calvinist fashion, that faith is a gift, it must then be asked: why privilege ‘faith’ as the condition for salvation? Why not, in terms of the internal dynamics of JT, something else like ‘wearing a red T-shirt with “Jesus Saves” written on it (or the ancient equivalent)’ (56)? Why not love, hope, justice, or something else? Does it not strike one as arbitrary. Why not a simple set of works that all could accomplish? Further, what is the point of phase one if faith is then simply ‘given’? The logic of ‘faith’ in the system of JT thus breaks down for the Calvinist variant, while the Arminian option remains impossible.

For these seven reasons, JT ‘breaks down internally’ as a soteriology, ‘in strictly theoretical terms’ (37).

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6 Comments:

At 1/12/2011 10:56 PM, Blogger Andrew said...

Chris,

In DC’s argument about Anselm, I thought he did a relatively poor job of discussing/countering the most common rebuttals to his suggestion. For example the most common reason I see given as to why Jesus had to atone and nobody else could (human or animal) is this: “God is infinite, therefore when humans sin against they do infinite wrong. Nothing finite can atone for infinite wrong. Only God is infinite, therefore only he can atone for infinite wrong. Jesus was God and so could atone for infinite wrong.” Anselm in fact uses an argument along those lines himself, in order to demonstrate why Jesus must have been God, and this is the standard argument JT advocates today give. DC failed to discuss or counter this common explanation. I also thought it was particularly strange DC only discussed Anselm here, because most JT advocates today would hold Penal Substitutionary Atonement as their view rather than Anselm’s view. It was not clear to me why DC completely ignored PSA here and concentrated only on Anselm, since PSA would have provided an explanation for many of the ‘problems’ he sees in Anselm’s model. Neither do I think DC is correct in claiming Anselm transmutes all sin into economics. Anselm understands sin as “an offence against God’s honour”. Now in Anselm’s day, economic reparations could be given to settle disputes caused by such offences and Anselm certainly makes use of this custom, but Anselm’s primary definition of sin is as offence not as economics.

I think DC makes a number of very good points about “faith”. Arminians like to talk about a ‘choice’ facing each person, with God offering salvation to everyone and people choosing to accept it or reject it. In such circles the word ‘faith’ is generally understood to mean ‘belief in Jesus and that he atoned for our sins’. But as DC rightly points out beliefs are not the same thing as choices, as beliefs cannot generally be chosen consciously. So ‘faith’ does not really fit the ideal criterion of ‘choice’ that Arminians think should logically exist. DC also rightly points out a number of flaws in the Calvinist system. Calvinism would be a lot more logically consistent without the concept of ‘faith’ needing to be fitted in it. Since in Calvinism God enacts salvation, human faith must be rejected as a criteria of salvation or else that would be humans acting to earn salvation. I’ve seen quite a number of Calvinists squirm at the thought of faith having a causal role in salvation because it sounds like humans are doing something to save themselves. I’ve found that Calvinists like to try and redefine ‘faith’ as being another word for ‘grace’ (which of course to them refers to God doing everything and humans doing nothing). I was looking recently at some Calvinist creeds from the Reformation era with a view to understanding their definition of ‘faith’, and I was intrigued to see that they were really struggling to define it because they really wanted it to have no content at all (because otherwise humans could act to earn their salvation by having ‘faith’). Ideally, for Calvinism, human ‘faith’ is the opposite to human effort, and means ‘doing nothing’. God saves us, and therefore humans should do nothing (‘have faith’). I was quite astounded to see the amount of verbal contortion that Calvinist writers were prepared to apply to the word ‘faith’, and amused that these contortions were always in aid of trying to twist faith into fitting into their system of doctrine and never had any interest in trying to understand what pistis actually meant in koine Greek.

 
At 1/12/2011 10:57 PM, Blogger Andrew said...

Chris,

In DC’s argument about Anselm, I thought he did a relatively poor job of discussing/countering the most common rebuttals to his suggestion. For example the most common reason I see given as to why Jesus had to atone and nobody else could (human or animal) is this: “God is infinite, therefore when humans sin against they do infinite wrong. Nothing finite can atone for infinite wrong. Only God is infinite, therefore only he can atone for infinite wrong. Jesus was God and so could atone for infinite wrong.” Anselm in fact uses an argument along those lines himself, in order to demonstrate why Jesus must have been God, and this is the standard argument JT advocates today give. DC failed to discuss or counter this common explanation. I also thought it was particularly strange DC only discussed Anselm here, because most JT advocates today would hold Penal Substitutionary Atonement as their view rather than Anselm’s view. It was not clear to me why DC completely ignored PSA here and concentrated only on Anselm, since PSA would have provided an explanation for many of the ‘problems’ he sees in Anselm’s model. Neither do I think DC is correct in claiming Anselm transmutes all sin into economics. Anselm understands sin as “an offence against God’s honour”. Now in Anselm’s day, economic reparations could be given to settle disputes caused by such offences and Anselm certainly makes use of this custom, but Anselm’s primary definition of sin is as offence not as economics.

I think DC makes a number of very good points about “faith”. Arminians like to talk about a ‘choice’ facing each person, with God offering salvation to everyone and people choosing to accept it or reject it. In such circles the word ‘faith’ is generally understood to mean ‘belief in Jesus and that he atoned for our sins’. But as DC rightly points out beliefs are not the same thing as choices, as beliefs cannot generally be chosen consciously. So ‘faith’ does not really fit the ideal criterion of ‘choice’ that Arminians think should logically exist. DC also rightly points out a number of flaws in the Calvinist system. Calvinism would be a lot more logically consistent without the concept of ‘faith’ needing to be fitted in it. Since in Calvinism God enacts salvation, human faith must be rejected as a criteria of salvation or else that would be humans acting to earn salvation. I’ve seen quite a number of Calvinists squirm at the thought of faith having a causal role in salvation because it sounds like humans are doing something to save themselves. I’ve found that Calvinists like to try and redefine ‘faith’ as being another word for ‘grace’ (which of course to them refers to God doing everything and humans doing nothing).

 
At 1/14/2011 6:15 PM, Blogger Chris Tilling said...

Dear Andrew,
I have already probably said this, but I am very grateful for your thoughts - they are enriching this series and my own reading of DoG. Thanks.

You write "DC failed to discuss or counter this common explanation. I also thought it was particularly strange DC only discussed Anselm here, because most JT advocates today would hold Penal Substitutionary Atonement as their view rather than Anselm’s view."

I think DC discussed specifically Anselm here, and not penal (or some other) substitutionary theory, because Anselm specifically attempts to bring Christology into direct and necessary contact with atonement (only a divine Christ can make atonement for the infinite debt of human sin). Otherwise, the question becomes, as DC phrases it, why not lots of large bulls to make atonement.

Or have I missed something in your point?

 
At 1/17/2011 9:51 PM, Blogger Nance said...

Hi Chris,
I have a quick question: so we are taking 'faith/belief' here in a purely cognitive sense? That seems to be the gist, but if DC offered a definition at some point, I'd love to hear it.

I've listened to Campbell decry belief voluntarism in class, but his reasoning (it sounds like the same line that's in DoG here) always fell a little flat for me because it's been a while since I've taken 'faith' in that sense. In his Philosophical Fragments Kierkegaard argues that faith is not a form of knowledge, but an act of the will--a position that I've held myself for a few years. So with Augustine in Confessions VI. iv (6), for instance, where believing is 'entrusting' himself to God, distinct from his stance on various truth claims of the Church. It doesn't seem like you hit the snares that DC is pointing towards with 'faith' when you use that kind of conception.

 
At 1/20/2011 12:16 AM, Blogger Chris Tilling said...

Hi Nance, thanks for your comment. Greetings to all at Duke.

"so we are taking 'faith/belief' here in a purely cognitive sense?"

Yes, I think that is the basic point. Faith, in JT, does not need to be personal as much as intellectual agreement.

"... it's been a while since I've taken 'faith' in that sense"

Glad to hear it! DC is, of course, only critiquing a view of faith which is understood as part of the theoretical system, JT.

Loved the reference to Kierkegaard and Augustine. I think I will look the latter up. Cheers.

"It doesn't seem like you hit the snares that DC is pointing towards with 'faith' when you use that kind of conception."

Yes, absolutely. Though DC would, I think, heartily agree. Faith is not the problem. It is how JT construes it. I will get to that, actually, in the review a little later. A good section to look at in DoG is chapter three, when DC contrasts the JT account of faith, and faith understood in light of the "alternative theory" (found in Romans 5-8).

 
At 1/22/2011 12:54 AM, Blogger Rachel said...

Nice to see you back in the saddle Chris, and doing such a thorough job.

This is on the fly and so not actually represent my work particularly accurately, however...

On Anselm and atonement. The argument is supposed (I think) to work like this. To justify Jesus being divine/God, you need the argument from quantity Andrew--an infinite being (God) being needed to atone for a finite although large mass of sin. (Sin is not infinite BTW.) And it seems to me that this argument breaks down.

You then can fall back to PSA, as you put it, but at this point you can't explain why Jesus is God, and why Jesus had to atone.

That Anselm had other things to say--and perhaps not even these things--is true, but it doesn't help us to navigate through Paul's text in Romans. Hono[u]r and offens/ce doesn't come up in a soteriological way there, as far as I know.

There's a lot more to say here of course but you need to grasp this set of arguments before we move on to those things.

Nance... faith as an act of will. Hmmm. I need to know two things from you. Have you been reading Nietzsche recently? And, where is the will located and how does it work exactly? (That last question was really two I know.) Doubtless we can continue this conversation in the Refectory.

 

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