Sunday, November 03, 2013

Response to Andersen’s review of Campbell’s Deliverance

A couple of friends have recently drawn attention to the Fellowship for Biblical Studies, Australian Book Review of Douglas Campbell’s The Deliverance of God, penned by Francis I Andersen. You can find it here.

As I wrote in comments on Facebook, I didn't think the review was too helpful, to be honest. Just skimming I read “Campbell’s entire treatment is based on this highly speculative hypothesis”. Really? Perhaps most alarmingly misrepresenting Campbell is:

“There can be no objection to Campbell’s insistence that justification in Paul is christocentric; but that does not mean that the human response can be left out of the equation”

Wowzers, this doesn’t represent Campbell at all. He's not the first to booboo on that point, though. Mark Seifrid's review comes to mind (see the fun response to Seifrid’s here)

The up and coming New Testament whizz, William Glass (here is his Twitter account!), had the following to add on the Facebook discussion and he has given me his permission to put it here in the public domain of blogdom!

I'm afraid I agree with you, Chris. The review could have been cobbled together largely from the misreadings I have found in other scholars' review of the book (Matlock, Moo, et al).

To the misreadings you have identified, one could add the statement that "Paul's authentic gospel is found in his putative responses to what the Teacher (allegedly) says." Such a reading, if true, would be pretty bad as Campbell has Paul affirming in one way or another most of the teacher's tenets and premises. What Campbell makes immensely, almost pedantically, clear about Paul’s response to the teacher is that it is a reductio ad absurdum of the Teacher's own argument, which then sets the stage for Paul's authentic Gospel in Romans 5-8.

Andersen's assertion (also found in Matlock) that "partisans of TJT might find it hard to recognise their beliefs in this account" as it is "too formal, programmatic, rationalistic," etc... again falls flat. Campbell admits, especially in his discussion of the church-historical pedigree, that JT's propositions are not necessarily held in full or in isolation from other beliefs by any proponent of JT. Rather, where JT is present, these are the conclusions it leads to. The Nicene Creed, for example, is a propositional and programmatic statement of Christian orthodoxy; but this is not to suggest that it is a sufficient statement of the beliefs of anyone who holds it. The Scriptural narrative may be faithfully summed up in the Creed; but it is not exhausted by it. Nevertheless, *if* the creed is a faithful summary of Scripture, the statement "I don't believe in the creed but only in Scripture" is as nonsensical a statement as is Andersen's statement that the summary of JT is "too formal, programmatic," etc.... On Andersen's reading, Campbell is speaking against himself by discussing Luther and Calvin. This is not the case at all.

The charge that Campbell is "too programmatic" can thus be related to Andersen's question about why, if JT is so bad, so many Christians have been satisfied by it for so long. Is it true, he asks, that all of those people "have been deluded in their reading of Romans?" Campbell's answer would be simply "yes and no." The tradition is complicated; the JT reading sits uneasily right next to participatory readings of Romans like that of Augustine in DT XIII and Athanasius' Contra Arianos, not to mention Luther's theologia crucis and Calvin's emphasis on faith as healing gift to human depravity. Christians, like their tradition, articulate both sets of beliefs alongside one another. This is why almost none of JT's holders would see Campbell's propositions and agree to them in toto. By God's grace, another tradition has been preserved that sits uneasily next to justification theory. But Campbell's ruthlessly systematic statement of its premises and conclusions is meant to show that these traditions do not accommodate one another; they simply disagree and one must be dispensed with, not because faithful Christians can't hold it and still be faithful Christians but because it is false. Christians aren't unfaithful when they live holy lives and derive comfort from what truths are there to be found in JT (e.g. that God makes us right with him outside of any ability on our part to do so); they are just incoherent. Campbell wants to see those truths articulated more fully, more truthfully, without any of the contradictions that accompany them in JT.

My last soap box has to do with the statement, oft-repeated, that there is "not the slightest hint, in the text of Romans, that it is structured as a debate between two opposing persons." Andersen notes that 1 Corinthians preserves evidence that Paul often used rhetorical devices to portray an opponent. But "you can see," Andersen claims, "what the questions and expostulations are doing in 1 Corinthians: 'But someone will say....'" Andersen implies that Paul is always so explicit, which of course is not the case, as the debates around the phrase "all things are permissible" will readily attest. Moreover, a number of scholars have seen in the immediate context of Campbell's target (i.e. Romans 2-4 or just 3 or just 4, depending on who it is) a dialogue or argument occurring. Thus, the confident assertion of "not the slightest hint" is simply false. But even if one were to grant that what Andersen means is "there is not the slightest hint in Romans 1:18-32," he is off the mark even so. Campbell lists a number of textual features (e.g. elevated language, wordplay, exaggeration, unusual words, etc...) that at *least* suggest Paul is not up to his usual game there. The suggestion of an interlocutor, once made, produces what to my mind is far and AWAY the best line-by-line reading of Romans 2 that Romans scholarship has produced. I would say that is quite a hint, and more than a slight one.


At 11/03/2013 2:05 AM, Blogger Keen Reader said...

How many Christians are even aware that Campbell's massive doorstop exists, and how many would read it even if it was given to them for free?

The reality is that whatever anyone thinks of this book is largely irrelevant to Christianity, never mind the rest of the world.

At 11/05/2013 6:18 PM, Anonymous Alan K said...

Dear Keen Reader, no one was aware of the existence of Kierkegaard either for several decades, and his full import was not realized in any significant way until he had been dead for nearly two generations. But that doesn't change the fact that Kierkegaard was the last great Christian thinker and that he has relevance to Christianity and the rest of the world.

At 11/17/2013 3:24 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Chris, it has been mentioned that Douglas was writing a book that would bring D.O.G.discussion down to us lay-people's level of comprehension and reading (I think I spent 2/3 of the time in the dictionary when I was working through the book).

I have the Quest for Paul's Gospel, and that has helped tremendously.

I keep searching the internet to see if the book has come out. Thank you, Kathy

At 11/17/2013 4:26 PM, Blogger Chris Tilling said...

Hey Kathy! Yes, it won't be too long - next year perhaps. The End of Religion is a commentary on Romans and much lighter than DOG. Maybe I should think about writing a "Campbell in a Can" short book!

At 12/07/2013 4:01 AM, Anonymous Barry Matlock said...

If your NT whizz friend is going to bring my name into his denunciation of someone else's review, would he be so good as to identify my 'misreadings' of Campbell?

At 12/08/2013 5:02 AM, Blogger Guillermo said...

Barry, I was (I think) very clear just where I take it you are misreading Campbell. My paragraph 3 states "Andersen's assertion (also found in Matlock) that "partisans of TJT might find it hard to recognize their beliefs in this account" as it is "too formal, programmatic, rationalistic," etc... again falls flat." Do you deny making a similar judgment in your JSNT review of Campbell's book (see esp. p. 123)? You have accused Campbell of burning straw men. In your review you berate him for asking us "to conclude that 'Justification theory' must be eliminated from Paul without our ever having attended to any actual 'Justification theorists.'"

Your reading of Campbell holds him to be setting up a programmatic construct without adducing the name of a single reader who endorses the theory by jot and tittle. But Campbell is clear, both in DoG and in his JSNT response to you that what is at stake is a particular reading of Rom 1-4; indeed, 'Justification theory' names a set of propositions that arise from a particular reading of Romans 1-4, one which is dominant in the tradition. Of course, it is to be expected (as Campbell acknowledges again in both places) that not everyone will hold all parts of that reading--especially where the consequences of a straight reading of Romans 1-4 (and a small family of other texts, e.g. Gal 2:15-16) become undesirable. But Campbell's entire point is that, whatever the theological merits of their prevarications from those consequences (and I take him to think those merits are many), they are merely being inconsistent. This of course was also the burden of my song in my response to Andersen's review.

Thus, Luther writes his lectures on Galatians, "now the true way to Christianity is this, that a man do first acknowledge himself by the law, to be a sinner, and that it is impossible for him to do any good work.... When a man is thus taught and instructed by the law, then he is terrified and humbled, then he seeth indeed the greatness of his sin.... The first part then of Christianity is the preaching of repentance, and the knowledge of ourselves..." (emphasis added). If Luther in some other place states this is not the true way to Christianity, or that some other way is, we do not try to reconcile such statements anymore than we try to reconcile something's being a square with its not being a square. Rather, we acknowledge the tension and observe that Luther says different things at different times. Or, as Campbell wrote in his JSNT response, "Luther said a lot of other things, many in my view basically incompatible with this material (and this is the real import of chapter 8 in Deliverance) but he did say these things too."


At 12/08/2013 4:30 PM, Blogger Guillermo said...

(cont. from above)

You take his chapter 8 to be a massive exercise in confusion or intellectual vice ("Campbell's own research is trying to tell him something here, but he refuses to listen"). In fact, it demonstrates inconsistencies of just the kind I have pointed out. But the fact that a person can be taught by the rest of the Scripture (or even the rest of Romans), such that she does not employ only the discourse that arises straightforwardly from Romans 1-4 in her theology, does not all take away from the fact that she may also speak in terms of that discourse. Campbell's point in ch. 8 (and indeed in the early parts of that book) is to show an infection of otherwise orthodox and salutary theology with a discourse that can be traced genealogically to a bad reading of Romans 1-4. That is why chapter 10 can end with such a diversity of names, of scholars that disagree widely on various particulars, but whose discussions are all laced with this discourse here and there. And that discourse, both systematically and exegetically (insofar as it arises from Romans 1-4), leads to several undesirable consequences for Pauline interpretation.

You seem (as evidenced by the title of your review) to think that you have understood Campbell better than he has understood himself. If you had, you would have realized that the best way for you to disprove Campbell's thesis would be neither a) to accuse it of being a straw man, which shows a misunderstanding of what JT is, nor b) to take on his re-reading as you do in half-hearted fashion in the later parts of your review, but rather to perform a reading of Romans 1-4 that disproves his contentions concerning the theoretical discourse that arises from it. This would be the proper grounds on which to contest his account of the problem, if that account of the problem were truly understood. As it is, to my knowledge, none of his reviewers has attempted this; what they have done instead shows evidence quite simply of a misreading.


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