Jesus Creed

This is an incredible series being offered to us by Matt Edwards: a nine part summary and response to Douglas Campbell’s mega-book, The Deliverance of God: An Apocalyptic Rereading of Justification in Paul
. Thanks to Matt Edwards.

The Deliverance of God
2–Contradictory Epistemologies in Justification Theory

We are evaluating Douglas
Campbell’s rereading of Romans 1-4 as presented in The Deliverance of God: An Apocalyptic Rereading of Justification in
. In the book, Campbell rejects “justification theory” (JT), the
traditional way of understanding Romans 1-4. He describes JT as having two
phases–“the rigorous contract” (in which God’s ethical demands are made clear
to all people, all people are found to have fallen short of these demands, and
all people are declared worthy of God’s retributive justice) and “the
appropriation of salvation” (in which God, in his grace, offers a more
manageable criterion for salvation, “faith”). Most western Christians interpret
Romans 1-4 according to JT.

Campbell has suggested three steps
that JT advocates need to take in response to his rereading: (1) demonstrate
that JT is a valid option for Paul, (2) answer his critique, and (3) show how
JT is a better interpretive option than his rereading. We have undertaken step
(1) in a previous post, and over the next few posts we will be undertaking step
(2). When we are finished, I will suggest an approach to step (3).

One of Campbell’s strongest
critiques of JT is its contradictory epistemologies. He summarizes the
critique: “Justification theory argues in terms of two incompatible
epistemologies: a general, atemporal, philosophical, and rational conception of
knowledge–“objective” philosophical reasoning; and a particular, historical,
revelatory, and interpersonal conception–notably, the witness of Scripture, but
also the voice of God.” (37)

By this, he means that phase one and
phase two are navigated through different types of knowledge. On the one hand,
phase one is navigated through reason and observation of nature. Romans 1:18-20
(NET) says, “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all
ungodliness and unrighteousness of people who suppress the truth by their
unrighteousness, because what can be known about God is plain to them, because
God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world his
invisible attributes–his eternal power and divine nature–have been clearly
seen, because they are understood through what has been made. So people are
without excuse.” In JT, God is justified in judging people (whether they have
heard the gospel or not) because they know him through nature and reason, and
they have rejected him.

On the other hand, phase two can
only be navigated by revelation. Phase two centers around temporal events–the
crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus. It can only be delivered by
contextualized activity–the preaching of the church, the reading of the Bible,
the voice of God, etc.

Campbell writes of the tension
involved in switching knowledge types midstream:

“The most obvious [difficulty] is
that conclusions derived by the second approach are not necessarily valid in
terms of the first (and vice versa, but this is not so important; the model
moves forward). The generic, philosophical individual has no way of verifying
the truth of particular, revelatory claims; these have not been derived from
the rational contemplation of the cosmos but are presented by a person as
received truths. Hence, there is no way of objectively assessing them. Further,
the philosophical argumentation within Justification has no real need of
scriptural corroboration. Such support for the former is redundant if not
opaque. These are serious problems.” (38)

What do you think? Do the two types of epistemologies involved in JT
make it incoherent? 

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