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
8–Contradictions between Justification Theory and Paul’s Actual Preaching

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 today we will conclude step (2). In the next post, I
will suggest an approach to step (3).

Campbell argues that JT does not
accord with Paul’s actual preaching of the Gospel. Paul mentions his preaching
in Romans 1:1-16; 2:16, 29; 3:8; 6:17; 10:6-18; 15:15-24; 16:4, 17-20; 1
Corinthians 1:17-2:16; 9:1-2, 12, 14, 16-23, 27; 15:1-17; 2 Corinthians
1:18-22; 2:12, 17; 3:3-6; 4:1-6, 13; 5:11, 14-6:3; 10:14-11:6, 12-15; 12:12,
14; Galatians 1:1, 4, 6-12, 15-16; 2:2-9, 14; 3:1-5; 4:13, 19; 6:14-16;
Philippians 1:5-7, 12-18, 27-30; 2:16, 22; 4:3. (Campbell 158-59)

From these passages Campbell
deduces three themes of Paul’s preaching. First, Paul was concerned with the
narrative of Christ’s passion. Second, he was concerned with the Spirit as a
downpayment or guarantee of the eschaton. Third, he was concerned with a
three-part soteriological schema of sin-transition-salvation, with baptism
often involved in the transition. However, we do not see in Paul evidence of conditional salvation, or of faith as
the means of appropriating salvation. (160)   

Campbell also sees six interwoven
emphases in Paul: “(1) his constant emphasis on a fundamentally revelatory
epistemology; (2) his consequent diplomatic persona; (3) the similarly
consequent mediating role of his speech; (4) the elected, unconditional nature
of human response; (5) his complementary disavowal of rhetorical technique; and
(6) his complementary disavowal of ‘natural theology.'” (160)

In summary, Campbell argues that
Paul (1) rejected the natural theology required by JT, arguing instead that
knowledge of God comes only through revelation; (2) preached unconditional
rather than conditional salvation; (3) acted as a mediator between God and man
so that his preaching was the announcement of God; and (4) saw his preaching,
not as a means of convincing, but as a means of announcing what was already

What do you think about this? Is 1 Corinthians 1:17-2:16 a rejection of
natural theology? If so, how do people become aware of God so that they are
“without excuse” (Romans 1:20) in that way that JT requires? If Paul’s
preaching was not an answer to the problem discovered by natural theology, what
was the purpose of it? Do you see evidence of conditional salvation in Paul’s

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