Thursday, July 15, 2010

Bombshell demolishes evangelical theology?

I have started reading a blockbuster theology tome, The Deliverance of God: An Apocalyptic Rereading of Justification in Paul (Eerdmans, 2009) by Douglas A. Campbell, Associate Professor of New Testament at Duke Divinity School, and Down Under scholar who began his academic studies at Otago University, Dunedin.

I am about a fifth of the way through its 1000 or so pages, so it is early days to draw conclusions. But the gist of Douglas' case is that 'Justification theory' (i.e. 'Justification by faith' asserted as the great Pauline doctrine, especially as construed in Reformation and post-Reformation scholarship, and driving forward modern and post-modern evangelicalism) both misreads Paul and is responsible for many reprehensible developments in the life of Christendom (and its vestigial cultures, including Nazi Germany), the Protestant church, and Protestant theology. To say nothing of leading (Protestant) theology up the garden path of Old or New Pauline Perspective.

Campbell reckons (so far on my reading) to get 'beyond' the Old and New Pauline Perspectives, to rid theology of Justification theory (root and branch), and to establish an apocalyptic rereading of Paul, largely based on Romans 5-8 (rather than Romans 1-4, and Galatians), in which the great doctrine of salvation is God's deliverance of us from evil, drawing us through the Spirit into participatory union with Christ.

What I have not yet read is a proposal to reread Romans 1-4 and Galatians in the light of this new reading, thus (as I understand where this is going) rescuing Paul from charges of contradiction.

So far, then, this blockbuster is a bombshell, at least in the field of my own evangelical thinking (though not completely new, as for sometime my understanding of the heart of Christian experience is that we are 'in Christ').

Is it a bombshell in the field of all evangelical theology? Will it be the seminal work of the 21st century reconfiguring evangelical theology away from Lutheran and Calvinist influence to the 'real' Paul?

Will post again.


Tim Harris said...

It is certainly challenging reading, as much for writing style as content! I'm not convinced of a number aspects to his argument (especially his reading of Romans - he lost me there), but there are many intriguing observations along the way. Having said that, I think he ends up in a place not too dissimilar to my own position, but I take a very different route to get there...

I haven't come across many detailed reviews as yet (but I haven't checked in recent months), perhaps indicating that the general community of Pauline scholars are unsure quite what to make of it, in its many parts and as a whole.

I look forward to hearing what you make of it all.

Judah said...

Having followed the debate a little between Bishop Tom Wright and Pastor John Piper, I would love to hear more of your thoughts on this subject as you continue reading this "bombshell" tome.

Anonymous said...

“Is it a bombshell in the field of all evangelical theology? Will it be the seminal work of the 21st century reconfiguring evangelical theology away from Lutheran and Calvinist influence to the 'real' Paul.”--Peter Carrell

I certainly hope so. As a partisan of the Christus Victor school, I say anything can only be an improvement on Calvinism!

Although I’m not a professional theologian, I do have a certificate in theology from the Education for Ministry (EFM) program through Trinity Church, Wall Street. I will follow with interest your comments, (as well as those of other theologians like Tim Harris on the right and Bosco Peters and Howard Pilgrim on the left).

Kurt Hill
Wilting in Heat Wave Brooklyn, NY
(Which this month has been suffering through days
of 100F+ weather [37C+] which may be ho-hum to folks
from NSW or WA but here in the Northeast is a Very Big Deal)

Doug Chaplin said...

I recommend the responses by Michael Gorman for a fairly detailed interaction by another Pauline scholar:

Peter Carrell said...

Thanks for comments!

I will resist reading Gorman until a bit further down the Campbell track :)

Tim Harris said...

Thanks for the link Doug. I haven't read his detailed review, but I have enormous time for Gorman's Pauline studies more broadly. He is opening up some creative paradigms in reading Paul, and is a breath of fresh air for those wanting to move on from the new/fresh perspective debates.

John Sandeman / Obadiah Slope said...

This reviewer (from Fuller) suggests you should start at page 467!
He points out that Campbell is keen to reject some of the material in Romans 1-3. This could appeal to commentator Kurt

Peter Carrell said...

I am beginning to think I should return the book and ask for my money back :)

Anonymous said...

Helpful comments and links here, thanks. Though I doubt I am going to live long enough to read all the essential books.
Trite as it may sound, perhaps it is important to remember to avoid foregrounding the background and vice versa (Carson on Wright), and to attempt 'both/and' solutions rather than 'either/or'.
Al Mynors

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Al
My reading to date is making me (at least, I have not yet read the reviews linked in other comments) wonder whether some 'both/and' is missing ...