April 2010


Right now, I’m debating what to do with the free time I’ll have over the Summer.  There’s lots of authors I’d like to get to, including N.T. Wright’s scholarly stuff, Gordon Fee, etc.  I need to finish Campbell’s The Deliverance of God.  The summer will likely be focused on Paul and Greek, since I’m taking a Paul class in the Fall.   However, I might spiff up this Paul/Ignatius paper a little bit.

Any suggestions for the Amazon Wish List?

~alex

So I’ve dropped almost completely off the radar the past couple of weeks.  I’ve had tons going on at work and school (err, the typical excuse ;-) )  I’ve also been writing a rather large paper (it’ll end up being 25pgs probably)  for my Early Christianity class on Ignatius’ use of Paul, which has consumed lots of my writing energy.  On the plus side, I should be able to post more often now since things are slowing down *somewhat*.  I’ll likely blog portions of the essay I’ve been writing, which has been a blast so far.  I’m arguing that Ignatius’ understanding of martyrdom was shaped extensively by a “participatory” understanding of Paul.  Lot’s of good stuff :-)

more soon!

~alex

I liked the postmodern take on composition notebooks!

The text:

6.) τουτο δε λεγω κατα συγγνωμεν ου κατ῾ επιταγην.
7.) θελω δε παντας ανθρωπους ειναι ὡς και εμαυτον. αλλα παντα εχει ιδιον χαρισμα εκ θεου. ὁ μεν ουτως, ὁ δε ουτως.
8.) λεγω δε τοις αγαμοις και ταις χηραις, καλον αυτοις εαν μεινωσιν ως καγω.

A rough translation:
6.) I’m saying this as a concession, and not as a command.
7.) I’d like for all to be as I am. However, all have their own gift from God. One has this gift, another that.
8.) To the widows and widowers I say: it is good for them to remain as I am.

Some notes:
6.) I’m thinking τουτο (this) refers to the instruction in 2/3-5, though I’m not sure.
7.) I’ve translated θελω very lightly as “I would like.” I think Paul is speaking rather lightly here, on the level of wish or preference. He’s quick to point out that not everyone has the gift that he does.
8.) The question here is precisely the meaning of αγαμοις. Most literally, it means unmarried. But in light of the rest of the passage, I think he’s speaking specifically to widowers, especially since χηρα seems to refer only to women. If that’s the case, then it might support the hypothesis that Paul himself was a widower, though pushing beyond singleness as the meaning of the “as I am” statements needs to be done carefully.

Meditating on the “gift of celibacy” is something that we Protestants should probably do more of. What does Paul mean when he speaks of singleness as a gift? What does it mean for a wife or husband to a gift? It’s a worthy line of thought methinks.

~alex

Other parts to this series can be found on my Deliverance of God page.

The approach of Campbell’s Deliverance of God is a bit different from what one may expect. The book is not primarily exegesis! Exegesis plays a big, important role in the argument, but it’s not primary. The argument is theory driven. This seems strange at first glance. In good protestant form, I too want to jump into Scripture first and sort out the results later. But Campbell’s theoretical approach is rather powerful for several reasons.

The basic argument works in five parts. Part One consists of a description of Justification Theory on a theoretical level. After describing JT, he explores the difficulty of this particular reading. He examines both intrinsic difficulties (those within JT itself) and systematic difficulties (those seen when compared to Pauline texts, especially Romans 5-8). Part One continues with Campbell’s critique of JT’s depiction of Judaism and its account of conversion itself. It ends with Campbell concluding that JT is responsible for many of the interpretive dilemmas in Pauline scholarship and within the Church as a whole.

Even after this theoretical examination of Justification Theory, Campbell doesn’t immediately jump into the exegesis (close reading of a Biblical text) right away. Instead, he begins with some interpretive (hermeneutical) considerations. The primary reason for doing this is that Campbell believes that “an important, and possible quite insidious, set of interpretative dynamics is operative that can distort any naive or merely unselfconscious approach to the texts” (221). For Campbell, these must be grasped and neutralized as much as possible before we can simply “read Paul.” In Part Two he builds an interpretive base for working with the texts. He also some gives some history of interpretation of Paul, including a highlight of the Reformer’s reading of Paul. Finally, he looks at some dangers that surround reading Paul in a modern European (or North American) setting. Only with these interpretive dilemmas and warnings presented does he finally proceed with exegesis.

Parts Three through Five deals directly with the Biblical texts. Part Three deals with Justification Theory and the texts which are used to support it. It primarily deals with Romans 1-4 as the “textual fortress” on which JT rests (Douglas’s metaphor). Part Four offers a rereading of Romans 1-4 (probably the most provocative piece of the argument. Part Five then extends this rereading of Romans 1-4 to the rest of Romans, as well as to other key texts which have been used to support JT.

I’m still working through Part Two at the moment, so I can’t comment on his exegesis yet. However, I must say that his approach is noteworthy. Starting with the theoretical models and working to the texts is novel, but I think it’s helpful and even necessary. He’s correct in that a “completely unbiased” reading of the text is impossible. We’re greatly influenced by the traditions we have received, regardless of their source. Highlighting these inherited “interpretative tendencies” is necessary work as we start to examine the texts. It keeps us honest and hopefully humble as we dialog with one another about the meaning of the Scriptures. I know I’ll find stuff to take issue with, but I’m deeply impressed at the breadth and depth of his argument.

~alex

Other parts to this series can be found on my Deliverance of God page

As part of my summary and (slight) analysis of Campbell’s The Deliverance of God (hereafter DoG), I will condense and articulate Justification Theory as Campbell states it.  Justification Theory (or JT) is Campbell’s name for the classic Protestant statement of the core of the Gospel, namely Justification by Faith alone.  Historically, this is often called the “Lutheran” reading, but Campbell opts for “Justification Theory” instead.

DoG is fundamentally a critique and rejection of Justification Theory.  Campbell appropriately begins his tome with his articulation of JT.  He acknowledges that he is susceptible to creating a “straw man,” but strives to articulate the “opponent’s reading” as well as he can.  For the sake of discussion on the blog here, it’s also necessary to state what JT says.  Growing up in a Protestant church, JT was rarely explained in full, but it was certainly latent in our thinking.  So, now we can begin!

Campbell describes Justification Theory as a soteriology (theory of salvation) of two contracts.  The first one is rigorous, and the second one is generous.  The first contract goes something like this:

  • Premises
    • Humans are rational, self-interested and ethical.
    • God is omnipotent and just.
    • Everyone knows God is omnipotent from examining the Universe.
    • Everyone knows God is just from their own conscience.
    • God’s ethical demands are made known to Jews through the Old Testament laws.
    • God’s ethical demands are made known to everyone else innately (through their conscience)
    • Rewards and punishments will be meted out by God in accordance to a person’s obedience or disobedience of these ethical demands.  (Have you obeyed or not?)
    • Present injustices will be resolved at the end of time on the day of judgment.
    • The future age will have a positive aspect (heaven) and a negative one (hell).
    • God will determine an individual’s destiny based on their merit, whether they’ve obeyed his ethical laws or not (in accordance with Romans 2:6-10).
  • The Introspective Twist and the Loop of Despair
    • As we try to fulfill God’s ethical demands, we fail.  After failing, we try harder to fulfill God’s demands.
    • The harder we try, the worse we fail.
    • This results in a “Loop of Despair,” where we grow more and more depressed as we realize we cannot fulfill God’s ethical demands.
  • At this point, the “Generous Contract” enters:
    • God redirects, graciously, the punishment we deserve to Christ (who dies).
    • Because of his sinlessness and divinity, Christ can offer unlimited satisfaction of divine justice through his sacrificial death.
    • God redirects, generously, the perfect righteousness of Christ to sinners who are now viewed as if this righteousness were their own.
    • God, again graciously, offers faith as the criterion for accessing this righteousness.  This is manageable, unlike the the rigors of the first contract.
    • Individuals who have this faith access the perfect righteousness of Christ and will receive a favorable judgment on the day of judgment (they’ll go to Heaven).

Campbell goes through these in more detail, but that will suffice as a depiction of JT.  Toward the end of chapter 1, he lists these as the “root” metaphors of Justification Theory:

  • Humanity is ultimately individual, rationalistic, and self-interested. Humans are primarily cognitive (thinking is our most basic task).  By thinking, we discern the second “root” idea:
  • God is primarily an authority figure of strict justice. The “philosophical man” discerns the most fundamental divine attribute is retributive justice (that is, God punishes wrongdoing and rewards right-doing).
  • Humanity perceives itself to be “ethically incapable.” Humanity tries to do right in light of God’s justice, but is unable to fulfill these commands.
  • There needs to be compensatory mechanism of satisfaction, namely, Christ’s atonement. Jesus’ death pays for the sins from which humanity cannot escape.
  • The criterion of salvation is faith.   An individual accesses this work of Christ by believing in the revelation of Christ’s death and resurrection.

Campbell is working here on the theoretical level.  He only wants to with JT on a theoretical level since his approach is “theory” driven.  Discussion of the key Biblical texts will come later, but right now he wants to highlight the integrity (and also the difficulties) of JT before interacting with the important texts.

I’ll respond a little bit to his method in a separate post, but I find his articulation of the classic interpretation fair.  Admittedly, I haven’t done a tone of reading on classical Protestant theology, but it does fit will with both my reading and my experience growing up in Church.  If there’s something “amiss” in this representation, please let me know.  I’ve cut out a lot to make the summary manageable, so it’s likely I left something important out!

~alex