Guest post by Andrew Wallace
I have been enjoying Chris' continuing review of Douglas Campbell's huge tome The Deliverance of God. Those people interested in the topics covered there will likely enjoy my new book which has just been published. Chris has invited me to fill you in on it here. My book deals with many of the same issues, but is a much easier read (I imagine I'm not the only one who's struggled to reach the end of Campbell's monstrous work).
Moral Transformation: The Original Christian Paradigm of Salvation
By A. J. Wallace & R. D. Rusk (2011)
This is the book for you if:
* You like the New Perspective on Paul.
* You are interested in understanding how the Gospels depict Jesus.
* You would like to understand Paul's theology, and how it can be reconciled with the rest of the New Testament.
* You would like to know more about different ideas of atonement.
* You are interested in learning how the concept of salvation has changed throughout church history.
* You are interested in reading a systematic presentation and defense of the moral influence view of atonement.
* You are looking for a believable alternative to Penal Substitution.
* You love Douglas Campbell's ‘PPME’ model and want to read about one.
We begin by looking at the question: "If early Christians didn't think Jesus' purpose was to die as a penal substitute for the sins of humanity, then what understanding of his life and death did the Gospel writers actually have?" To answer this question, we briefly survey the gospels in the light of socio-historical research to see how Jesus' contemporaries would have understood his words and actions as presented in the Gospels. For those familiar with socio-historical studies, there is little new in this section of the book. However, for those accustomed to thinking that the sole purpose of Jesus' life is found in his death on the cross to atone for the sins of humanity, this analysis of the Gospel accounts may be eye-opening.
The second section of the book works through a number of important New Testament theological concepts: Grace, Faith, Final Judgment, Forgiveness, Righteousness, Works of Law etc. Based on the findings of recent scholarship, we provide dramatic reinterpretations for each of these concepts, which challenge the standard Reformation views. For example, we review the conclusions of many recent scholars (Douglas Campbell among them) who have pointed out that ‘faithfulness’, rather than ‘faith’, represents a more appropriate translation of pistis. We also argue this point extensively using additional evidence from the New Testament and other ancient Greek writings. This understanding leads us to interpret Paul’s statements of 'salvation by faith' very differently - that salvation comes through faithfulness to Christ (obedience to Christ's teachings). We show that salvation is primarily about positive moral change. This moral change leads to an assurance of positive final judgment, as God's judgment is based on the moral character of the individual. Throughout our reinterpretation of these concepts, we draw from extensive biblical support and cite many scholars who agree with these alternative readings, and so in one sense we propose nothing new. The significance of this book is that it ties all of these reinterpretations together into a systematic paradigm of salvation ("Moral Transformation") and extensively demonstrates at each point that this view was what the biblical writers really taught.
The third section of the book looks at what the early Christians considered significant about Jesus and his activity. Here we begin by drawing together verses regarding salvation to illustrate that they believed Jesus had saved them through a process of moral transformation. The chapters analyzing the early Christian concept of Jesus as a martyr and their use of sacrificial language in reference to Jesus should be of particular interest. The concept of Jesus as a martyr has only recently begun to receive considerable attention in scholarship on early Christianity, so this section may well interest many readers. We argue that Paul understood Jesus' death primarily as a martyrdom, and numerous statements throughout his letters attest to this, especially ones in Romans. The understanding of sacrificial systems within scholarship advanced a great deal in the 20th century with numerous anthropological studies of sacrifice being conducted. The conclusions of such studies have important consequences for understanding what the New Testament writers meant when they used sacrificial language about Jesus. Penal substitution advocates have traditionally seen sacrificial language as decisive proof of their view. However, we use this improved understanding to argue that the sacrificial language in the New Testament is incompatible with penal substitution.
The fourth section of the book presents an extensive historical case that the moral transformation paradigm of salvation finds universal attestation in the writings of the ante-Nicene Church Fathers, and is strongly attested throughout much of the rest of Christian history. We also outline the key doctrinal changes over the centuries, which culminated in the Reformation doctrines of salvation by faith and penal substitution. Finally, we offer a brief critique of these Reformation doctrines.
Each individual point in this book has been argued for by scholars, but this book ties all these together in a way that, to my knowledge, is very unique. I know of no other book that ties all this scholarship together into a complete picture and shows how strongly it challenges us to re-understand the early Christian paradigm of salvation.