Friday, January 21, 2011

Review of Campbell’s Deliverance PART 14

A summary review PART 14
of Campbell, Douglas A. The Deliverance of God: An Apocalyptic Rereading of Justification in Paul. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 2009

Having outlined the many intrinsic difficulties (IDs) of JT, those problems thrown up by the internal logic of JT itself, DC now turns to examine the problems that become evident when JT is contrasted with things Paul says elsewhere in his letters.

Systematic Difficulties

‘If the essentially contractual theory of Justification is inserted into Paul’s thought, then almost every aspect generates tension in relation to something the apostle says elsewhere’ (62). To show these 'systematic difficulties' DC works backwards, by first outlining an alternative Pauline theory. With that different perspective in view, it will be clear how, if JT is inserted into Paul, tensions are produced.

An alternative Pauline theory: the soteriology apparent in Romans 5-8

The thought experiment now undertaken answers the question: If, ‘by a twist of canonical fate’ (62) one had only Romans 5-8 left from Paul’s letters, what would one conclude about that Paul’s soteriology? (Some of the following will reflect a position DC already outlined in his book, The Quest For Paul’s Gospel, reviewed by your host here

First, the text evidences a complex soteriology, involving an interrelated mix of topics like the nature of God, the Spirit, Christian existence, a perspective on ontology and epistemology etc. So, as DC must begin somewhere, he begins with ‘the state from which humanity is rescued’ (63, though ultimately this ‘alternative soteriology’ begins with the unconditional salvific and apocalyptic deliverance of God, so 72). This state involves flesh-humans, descended from Adam, enslaved by Sin and Death, one that finds itself as an enemy of God, totally unable to please God (5:10; 8:5-8). ‘Wretched man that I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?’ (7:24).
‘People who exist in this dire condition … are obviously incapable of accurate theological reflection or of any positive action, ethical or salvific … hence the text’s repeated emphasis on deliverance (7:24b; 8:2 …) And this rescue is apparently the result of interlocking actions by God the Father; his only, beloved Son, who he sends into the enslaved Adamic condition; and the Holy Spirit’ (63).
It is indeed interesting that Paul does not have too much to say about forgiveness (a point made years ago, e.g. by Krister Stendahl) and is more concerned with deliverance from Sin. To also be noted is the Trinitarian shaped language in the following: the Father’s actions are fundamentally loving (5:5, 8; 8:32), giving up his Son much as Abraham offered up Isaac. The Son descends, takes the likeness of sinful flesh and in an act of obedience, climaxing with his death, terminates the old, enslaved and Adamic being (cf. 8:3 – with a thus appropriate OT sacrificial idiom). He is then raised to new life as a template for the new humanity (8:29). Christ assumes, terminates and reconstitutes humanity as the loving act of God. The Spirit likewise benevolent activity inaugurates (i.e. does not complete) the rescue of enslaved humanity, enabling Christians to know the love of God, to hope and pray etc. and grafts them into the death and resurrection of Christ through baptism.

Christian salvation is thus fundamentally transformational and relational, the Spirit effecting the change ‘with reference to Christ’ (64). Ethics is inherent to this transformation from slavery to sin to holiness to eternal life (6:19, 22-23); human ethical capacity is freed from slavery and is itself transformed by grace (6:15, 23). The perception of human enslavement is seen in light of this grace, i.e. it looks backward (is retrospective, a posteriori) as ‘a corrupt human condition could not derive accurate conclusions about itself’ (65 – and cf. Rom. 8:7). What is needed is unconditional rescue, ‘and no criteria for its activation, appropriation, or reception by humans are apparent in this text, while what causality or agency is apparent is attributed to God’ (65 - with reference to 8:29-30; 5:6-8, 10). This inaugurated (partial) transformation is also liturgical (7:24; 8:15, 26-27, 34), it calls forth ‘human participation in the liturgical communion of the divine condition’ (66), yet at the same time thus calls for patience, perseverance and hope (5:2-5; 8:23-25), itself a participation in Christ’s sufferings (8:17). By the Spirit, believers participate in the ‘descent’ of Christ into his death, which guarantees their part in his risen life. And all of this, from beginning to end, is held in the unconditional love and benevolence of God (reflect on the beginning of Rom. 5, and the end of Rom. 8!).

At the end of this section, DC summarises this "alternative" theological system in a helpful, structured, way, as he did with JT.

In the next Part, we summarise DC's attempt to tie up two "loose ends".



At 1/22/2011 10:15 PM, OpenID danielsladen said...

I like the "thought experiment" approach (at least as a philosophy snob) but I wonder if it's as effective as simply identifying the repeated instances in which Paul appears to make statements that can't really be integrated into a JT reading.

If DC is contending with "real world" taught Christianity rather than the abstract world of theology - and it seems he is - then looking at the reasons adherents of JT believe they believe it is helpful. Most JT believers I know believe that they believe it because "it's what the Bible says" (in general they say that because they trust leaders who have told them it's the case, not because they've demonstrated it to themselves in a satisfactory fashion). Fashioning a plausible alternative narrative doesn't do much to change minds because there's an assumption that someone sufficiently knowledgeable can twist Scripture to say anything. In contrast, being confronted with the "problem" passages, in a situation where the hearer is committed to the simple veracity and logical interpretability of the Bible, does cause some serious re-examination. At least it has done for me...

Apologies if I've jumped ahead to something you will summarise later; you know how much I appreciate you reading the book so I don't have to!

At 1/25/2011 5:37 PM, Blogger Jeff Marx said...

This is awesome and thank you.

I think that the reality is too complex for any single theory to capture. I believe JT gives an angle. Perhaps it is best to say, "If we look at God's saving work in terms of 'X'... then it can be understood in this way..."

Certainly there is a sense in which marital reconciliation, redemption of slaves,establishment of citizenship and adoption are also images employed. I am so glad you are blogging again. This is really wonderfully helpful!

At 1/30/2011 2:23 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Chris, I appreciate your reviews on Campbell's book, "The Deliverance of God." Richard Beck, through is blog "Experimental Theology" introduced me to Campbell's book almost a year ago.

Being a full-fledged lay person, I am still on my first read of the book (I think I have spent the same amount of time in the dictionary as I have in DOG). As I have been reading, I kept saying to myself, I wish I could read additional summaries/reviews of Campbell's book; not so I would not have to read it, but to answer, "Am I comprehending this scholarly book correctly."

Thank you for helping this lay person as she journeys to understand why she was elated to learn that JT does not explain the first part of Romans. As danielsladen stated, "Most JT believers I know believe that they believe it because "it's what the Bible says" (in general they say that because they trust leaders who have told them it's the case, not because they've demonstrated it to themselves in a satisfactory fashion).

I was, for 24 years, one of those "they trust leaders who have told them..." I am learning to do otherwise.

Thank you again for your assistance.


At 2/11/2011 12:47 PM, Blogger Chris Tilling said...

Jeff, Kathy, thanks SO MUCH for your kind and encouraging comments! Hope you enjoy the rest of this review.

Jeff, you make an important point that DC will engage with a bit later, when he asks if contradiction is the only way of understanding the relationship between JT and the alternative theory.

At 3/11/2011 2:04 AM, Blogger Andrew said...


While I agree with the general thrust of Campbell's argument, I had a number of points of disagreement with his interpretation of Romans 5-8. The biggest being that DC's reading seems to have an overly negative anthropology of non-Christians. DC's construction of Paul's anthropology is so negative as to be empirically false (ie we can look at the world and see that non-Christian aren't as bad as he makes out). IMO the text of Rom 7 doesn't justify such a negative anthropology, as it depicts a person whos mind - their inner self - is good who wants to do what is right but who is unable to control their bodily passions (a typical theme of middle-platonic moral thinking - see Wasserman The Death of the Soul in Romans 7).

Of course, I totally agree with DC that, for Paul, salvation is fundamentally about moral change. Paul's strong emphasis on the absolute centrality of moral change to salvation has been all too often denied by adherents of the JT model in post-Reformation times.

At 3/11/2011 2:20 AM, Blogger Andrew said...


I think the 'thought experiment' approach of DC is useful because he actually goes on to argue his 'alternative reading' is the correct one. It's not really a thought experiment, it's his view of 'what Paul actually teaches'.

Looking at Bible passages that contrast with JT is indeed very helpful. Although the trouble is that JT advocates try to 'explain away' them all. Something I personally found to be a turning point, was when I made a list of every passage in the New Testament that gave any details about final judgment, and found there were over 30 such passages which unanimously depicted people being judged by their works (rather than by their faith as JT teaches). One of the other chapters in my book is devoted to analyzing the question of why the New Testament writers exhorted moral conduct. JT claims that moral conduct has no causal role in salvation and thus predicts that the Bible should never use the promise of a positive final judgment as incentive or encouragement for moral conduct. As the chapter demonstrates, JT can thus be empirically falsified, because there are passages in pretty much every New Testament letter stating that the final judgment by works is the incentive for moral conduct.


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