Beliefnet
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 6–The
Inexplicability of Faith 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
Paul
. 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).

Campbell argues that the need for
“faith” is inexplicable in JT. He writes, “Justification theory harbors a
cluster of complex problems with respect to faith, in two main variations. The
‘Arminian’ variant struggles to explain faith fully, and in particular, how
individuals can actually exercise faith in order to be saved. The ‘Calvinist’
variant can get beyond these difficulties by introducing revelation and
election at the point of faith but then runs into further problems in relation
to the privileging of faith and its gifting to individuals who have negotiated
phase one. Ultimately, both variants collapse.” (55)

  Campbell points out that phase one of JT demands that phase
two provide a manageable and particular means of appropriating salvation that
is based on information, but that there
is nothing inherent in JT that demands that this means be “faith
.”
Theoretically, God could have dictated anything to be the means of
appropriating salvation (Campbell suggests circumcision, the Eucharist,
baptism, resting on Sunday, or even wearing a red T-shirt that says “Jesus
Saves”). He writes, “The obvious problem is that the theory provides no
specific reasons for the function of faith in this role. Faith is clearly
privileged in this position by all the key Pauline texts, but, strictly
speaking, Justification theory cannot
explain it
. To be sure, faith basically fits the bill, but we do not know
why it has been selected over so many other potentially effective candidates.
So why not stipulate ‘love’ as the principle Christian condition, and/or
‘hope,’ and/or ‘humility,’ and/or ‘justice’?” (56-57)

 Campbell explains two common explanations for the purpose of
faith. The Arminian model emphasizes faith as voluntary. This model is
vulnerable to David Hume’s critique that beliefs
cannot be chosen
–you either believe something or you don’t. You can’t choose to believe something. Further,
the claims that people are required to believe (“Jesus is Lord” or “Jesus is
risen from the dead”) are unverifiable. Only God really knows if Jesus’ death
has dealt with sin or if Jesus reigns as Lord. Thus the Arminian model demands
that people believe things that they cannot believe.

The Calvinist model overcomes
Hume’s critique by making God the source of faith. Humans cannot believe, but
God produces faith within them. This model fails for two reasons. First, it
cannot explain why “faith” is the saving criterion. If God is the source of
faith and a host of other Christian virtues, why is “faith” presented as the
important one? You may even ask (Campbell doesn’t), if God is generating
salvation in people, why doesn’t he generate perfect obedience to the law instead
of just “faith”? Campbell writes, “To be sure, saved individuals will have
faith, but only as part of their overall transformation; they will also possess
love, not to mention joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, gentleness,
and self-control. Yet Paul’s texts massively privilege faith. And the Calvinist
variant has no explanation for this peculiar role.” (59)

The second reason the Calvinist
model fails is because it eliminates the need for phase one of JT. If God
elects whom He chooses, why bother with phase one? Phase one is only relevant
if it is a condition for salvation.
But in the Calvinist model, the only condition for salvation is election.   

What do you think about this? Arminians–How do you “choose” to believe
something? Calvinists–Why is “faith” the means of appropriating salvation and
not something else? 

Previous Posts
Join the Discussion
comments powered by Disqus