The critics of the new perspective on Paul, and they have tended to focus on the work of N.T. Wright, now have their biggest challenge yet. Until we get Tom Wright’s fourth volume, and Tom is now writing it, Douglas A. Campbell hefty tome, The Deliverance of God: An Apocalyptic Rereading of Justification in Paul
, will be the benchmark for how to read Paul.
Campbell’s book contains the fullest theological explanation yet of what he calls “Justification Theory,” and whether you agree with his own theory or not, his opening descriptions of the Reformation (Calvinist and Lutheran) understanding of Paul is about as complete as it gets. He sees it as modernistic, rational, individualistic, conditional, introspective, God as a God of strict justice, humans as stricken by ethical incapacity, and a satisfaction theory of atonement.
Into this and against this Campbell proposes an unconditional model of redemption in which humans are rescued from their slaveries to sin and death; this deliverance occurs through Christ’s assumption of Adamic ontology and his death executes Adamic ontology; humans respond by dying with Christ in order to execute Adamic ontology and receive a new ontology “in Christ.” The new situation is communal and participatory and interpersonal.
The book is more than 1200 pages long. It would be a fantastic vacation read or summer read for pastors; it is a must for professors and I believe should be read by seminary students as a primary text on Paul — whether one agrees with it or not. What Campbell calls the Justification Theory is deeply embedded in the Protestant consciousness; this sort of book reveals that consciousness and provides readers an opportunity to check whether it is the best reading or not.