Thursday, March 12, 2009

Pauline Soteriology Interviews: Douglas Campbell (Part 3)

Here is the third installment of my interview with Doug Campbell on his forthcoming book The Deliverance of God.

5. What is the central argument in your forthcoming book, The Deliverance of God?

Perhaps if I could refer back at this point to question 3, I suggested there that the geniuses of the twentieth century that you mentioned—and one or two others besides—left us with a large number of acutely important problems that were also almost entirely unresolved—Paul’s apparently unfair account of Judaism in certain texts; his oscillation between prospective and retrospective gospels and epistemologies; and so on. (And this was really my suggestion in question 1 as well.) DOG tries to solve a particular cluster of these difficulties, although their complexity necessitates an argument in several stages, and hence the length of the book. In particular—and I am almost embarrassed to admit this—DOG tries merely to reread Paul’s Justification or JF texts in a way that is ultimately compatible with a PPME reading of his gospel. It does not eliminate Justification language—of deliverance from bondage and jail, of belief and fidelity, and so on—but it does eliminate the overarching construal of his gospel at these points in terms of the JF system, replacing that with a tightly contingent argument that ultimately points to a PPME construal. And it is worth emphasising that my approach to the key texts is deeply grounded in practical problems Paul sees unfolding at Rome. We might say then that in response to a critical set of problems raised by Schweitzer and Sanders—and in a way partly presaged by Sanders—I reread Paul’s Justification texts in a way that Martyn would probably approve of, satisfying Beker’s dictum en route as well (which the conventional reading really can not). Hence, I make much of the difficulties caused for Paul by “the Teacher,” who is the leader of a group of Jewish Christian missionaries hostile to Paul’s suggestion that pagans can convert to Christ and then live lives of ethical probity without (for males!) undertaking circumcision and law-observance. These figures clearly regarded Paul as irresponsible and attempted to derail his mission in no uncertain terms. And he regards them as insufficiently Christological, ignoring the route to resurrection that God has actually provided in Christ. So they are “false brothers” (etc.: cf. Gal. 1:7; 2:4)!

It has taken me upward of fifteen years to get my head around all this. But I think it is finally all making sense.

6. What is the major contribution of DOG to Pauline research?

If the solution I am suggesting works, then we have cleared the ground fairly significantly and enabled a new phase of Pauline research to begin. And a kinder, simpler Paul should emerge. I anticipate that this research should be dynamically integrative as well. That is, we can begin to have a lot of conversations that have been difficult if not impossible to have up to this point—at least, not clearly. And I suspect that those conversations will integrate theological and sociological data and modelling, probably by way of a strong missiological emphasis in Paul’s practices. It could be a profoundly exciting time for Pauline interpreters. There is now something of a new verdant field opening up for us all to play on. Why refuse to join in?

7. How does your understanding of the nature of the Christ-event differ from standard Evangelical-Reformed and Barthian approaches?

I would want to suggest fairly firmly that it doesn’t, although a lot depends on what you mean by the word “standard” here. I view my understanding as a thoroughly Evangelical (particularly in the broader, German sense), Reformed, and Barthian construal of the Christ event that draws directly on theological work that stands squarely in these interpretative traditions—especially Irenaeus, the late Augustine, the Cappadocians, Athanasius, Calvin, parts of Luther, McLeod Campbell, Barth, and the Torrances. (Some of my colleagues at Duke insist that Aquinas and/or Wesley, rightly understood, belong here as well!) Indeed, I see myself very much as attempting to clarify and affirm this set of traditions as clearly as I can. But I hope that my understanding is also thoroughly catholic as well, not to mention Catholic in the best sense.

In the light of these traditions, however, I do push back on the western contractual ordo salutis, which I take to be less central if not alien to Evangelical, Reformed, and Barthian Christology and soteriology. There are occasional footholds for the ordo in some of those thinkers and traditions, but nothing deep or intrinsic. I hold that Paul has been misinterpreted at certain key points by this alternative and essentially alien, non-Evangelical trajectory. Indeed, it is the intrusion of this misinterpretation that has caused so many of our problems. But arguably it is time now to drive the money-changers from the temple!

Unfortunately—and as is probably apparent by now—the clash between these two very different conceptions of the Christ event characterises much of the material that you have introduced here, so there is probably not a single, “standard” view running through it. There is, however, in the end of the day, an authentic view and an alien and unhelpful one. There have been occasional attempts to impose the latter view as the standard one, and even to overrule and expel advocates of the former. But these are deeply misguided, even if frequently also deeply well-intentioned, actions. My book suggests that they are also fundamentally unpauline—something that has perhaps not been appreciated so clearly until now.

8. What is next on the research agenda for you with this book now finished?

I need to recover.

That said, I have been working away sporadically on Paul’s biography in tandem with my work on Justification, in the light of Beker’s important dictum. I have a preliminary framing biography already significantly complete, with most of the key chronological points in Paul researched in detail, and a solution to the overarching chronological puzzles worked out. So I hope to finish this work up shortly.

I want, after this, to write an integrated theological biography—a sustained advocacy of Paul’s gospel in terms of PPME of course! But it will also emphasise issues of theological and ethical contextualisation and missiological innovation, thereby continuing to try to work beyond troublesome thought-act and being-act dichotomies.

9. Does your wife design the covers to your books?

She does. (She is a professional: see And they are of course the most thought out and appealing things in them. So in my case please judge a book by its cover.

Doug, on behalf of myself and the readers of Euangelion, thank you very much for your time and we hope that the book does well. Incidentally, I should mention that there will be a review session of DOG at SBL in New Orleans in November!


Matt said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Matt said...

A great interview with some really good points. However, the interview was missing one thing: an interpreter!
You clever theological guys are flying at an altitude that only a select few can appreciate.
The points I could understand were very interesting.

John Anderson said...

As a one-time student of Dr. Campbell, I am pleased to read such a thought-provoking interview here. I took a class on Romans with Dr. Campbell in '05/'06 while I was getting my MTS at Duke, and while his 'Quest for Paul's Gospel' was in its final stages of completion. I have fond memories of the PPME model, and having Sanders and Campbell both at Duke during that time was wonderful; I still recall having a brief yet humorous conversation with Sanders regarding PPME.

Despite the fact that I am a budding Hebrew Bible scholar, Campbell's reading of Romans has stayed with me and had a profound effect on my understanding (what little there is!) of Paul. The intricacy and depth of thought demonstrated in these interviews is endemic to Campbell's deep desire and wrestling to understand Paul, for which I am greatly appreciative. I wrote my paper for the course on the model of Abraham in Romans 4; the complexity of that issue alone was enough to make me appreciate Campbell's work all the more. I still peek at his 'Quest . . . ' volume every so often. And perhaps Dr. Campbell will be (dis-)pleased to know, if I forget anything from his class, I will NEVER forget PPME. Alongside JF and SH, I think it is a fitting scholarly acronym.

I am pleased also to hear that DOG will receive some significant attention at SBL in New Orleans. I may just try to make that, so long as my presentation is not at the same time.

All the best!

Andy Rowell said...

I too want to thank Douglas Campbell for taking the time to give such a thorough, candid and winsome summary of what he is up to. Thanks also to Michael Bird for lending space for it.

It is understandable that people not schooled in academic Pauline studies will have difficulty following Campbell's interview but these are complex issues and Campbell in Deliverance of God (at 1248 pages) addresses them with as much detail as anyone in Pauline studies today.

Perhaps a way of introducing Campbell's book is this. Sometimes the Christian faith has been reduced to "asking Jesus into your heart which gets you into heaven" or "be a good person and you will go to heaven." Most Bible readers would say that neither is a particularly careful comprehensive summary of what Paul is saying in Romans and Galatians, etc.. Campbell tries find a better way to describe "how people get saved." Obviously, this is an extremely important issue and people have strong opinions about it. Hence, Campbell tries to make his case in a lot of detail because he wants to push fellow scholars to think more clearly about it. At a minimum, Campbell wants people to be challenged to think about salvation in terms of PPME: the Holy Spirit plays a part (pneumatological), those who are saved are saved through Jesus Christ (participaton), should give themselves to living like Jesus (martyrological) and are saved from the sin and death to life with God forever (eschatological). Campbell's broad argument and conclusion that God is at work through Jesus Christ by the Holy Spirit to affect salvation is orthodox, classic, perhaps even conventional. But the details will be much more disputed. The theological, academic details are important because they affect the details how live out our faith. That is why people are so interested in Campbell's book.

Here are the three parts of the interview:

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Andy Rowell said...

I have linked to your interview with Campbell and listed all of the early review's of his book at:
Reviews of Douglas Campbell's The Deliverance of God: An Apocalyptic Rereading of Justification in Paul