Review of Campbell’s Deliverance PART 15
The alternative system: two loose ends
DC ends this thought experiment overview of the alternative system by addressing two ‘loose ends’. First, what is the nature of ‘faith’ in the alternative system, a subject so central to JT and yet hardly mentioned in these chapters of Romans (5-8)?
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The nature of the redeemed community
Second, the alternative theory means that the redeemed state is interpersonal. This relationality is evident in the way the texts speak of God and Jesus, and Christians, as brothers of Jesus and children of God. They cannot be separated from these relations (8:38-39). Humanity is neither individualistic nor communal as though key relationships constitute the Christian’s identity, ‘a degree of individuation is not erased’ (69). Redeemed anthropology is thus best described as relational (here I am doing a dance: my thesis explores Pauline relational language in a good deal of depth. Interestingly, I found that it is everywhere present in Paul and absent for extended paragraphs only in … Romans 1-4).
Two more important implications of the alternative theory
Two further matters deserve elaboration as their implications for the ongoing thesis of DoG cannot be underestimated: 1) the question of Israel and 2) its view of violent punishment
Given that this ‘theory’ is based heavily on Jewish scriptures, which, though redeploying themes in surprising and unanticipated ways, is still decidedly Jewish, what is the implicit view of Israel (here DC draws on texts outside Romans 5-8)?
Paul’s grasp of Israel is patriarchal (cf. Gen. 22 in Rom. 8:32), yet only Christ is the answer to the Adamic condition. The Mosaic law remains locked in the old creation and, while it remains blameless itself, is exploited by Sin. After Christ reconstitutes and new humanity, and the Spirit indwells it, there is no function left for Torah – it is displaced, possessing ‘no independent ethical function at all’ (70). So what is the role of scripture here? It can, to a certain degree, anticipate the arrival of Christ and the Spirit, and this event can be illuminated in retrospect by scripture. I am reminded of a marvelous line from Beverly Gaventa’s short commentary on Galatians in the Eerdmans Commentary on the Bible.
But there is more: despite dramatic redefinitions of Israel and the law, it was a light in a dark place. It anticipated and, indeed, provides the human heritage of Christ, and Christians are simply ‘grafted’ into Israel’s historical lineage. Jesus, the template of the new existence, remains king of the Jews and so ‘heavenly existence is Jewish’ (70). Soteriology, for Paul in this theory, is Jewish, even as it redefines Israel.
'Scripture is not, in Paul's thinking, a passive repository from which readers retrieve principles and commands but at an active partner in interpreting God's actions in Jesus Christ’ (Gaventa, 1379).
DC will return to the matter of coercive violence in depth at the end of this chapter, in an excursus. But let's simply follow his line of thought here. While God’s fundamental posture is one of benevolence, and Christians ought to share in this basic disposition, what of the people who do not presently share in this salvation (e.g. those behind the distress, perils, sword etc. of 8:35)? Relevant here are the ‘universalist’ passages in Romans 5 and 8, of course, and whether a universalist position is embraced or not, the universal intention of God’s love is obvious. So what to do with mention of ‘the coming wrath’ (cf. 5:9)? Presumably Sin and Death will not be included, but eliminated, in the glorious future. Indeed, Romans 5-8 anticipates a final judgment where ‘things evil and hostile to God will be overthrown’ (72). So, while the text is confident about the future of Christians, it is ambiguous about the universal and unconditional love of God for humanity. DC adds, Paul: ‘does not seem to ask explicitly, and hence to answer, whether God’s universal designs in Christ are “irresistible” in relation to humanity as a whole. (Perhaps Paul felt that he did not need to ask this question)’ (72)
In a footnote, DC expands his position:
‘Nevertheless, we should probably infer with some confidence that a God so acting in the past and present will act consistently, and therefore not do violence to humanity, or necessarily engage with some future punishment of people. But this is not necessarily to suggest that some sort of exclusion or even elimination is not possible. It is of course tempting to appeal to Romans 11 at this point, specifically v. 26 … But various other Pauline texts could also be cited, and on both sides of the issue’ (948 n.11)This position, by the way, sounds a lot like the ‘hopeivism’ I have expounded on this blog before – and note Robin's recent post on this theme here.
Labels: Review of Deliverance of God