The Deliverance Of God: An Apocalyptic Rereading Of Justification In Paul By Douglas A. Campbell -- By: Douglas Moo

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 53:1 (Mar 2010)
Article: The Deliverance Of God: An Apocalyptic Rereading Of Justification In Paul By Douglas A. Campbell
Author: Douglas Moo


The Deliverance Of God: An Apocalyptic Rereading Of Justification In Paul By Douglas A. Campbell

Douglas J. Moo

Douglas Moo is Blanchard professor of New Testament at Wheaton College, 501 College Ave., Wheaton, IL 60187.

Douglas Campbell’s The Deliverance of God is a remarkable book.1 Never have I encountered a book that attacks so fiercely and with such assurance a theological view so widely held. Campbell’s target is “Justification Theory,” a soteriological paradigm that lies at the heart of much of western Christianity. Yet this paradigm, claims Campbell, badly misreads its key biblical witness, the apostle Paul. Its assumption that Paul works with a forensic/retributive notion of justification leads to all kinds of unfortunate consequences, ranging from an incoherent Paul to possible complicity with state-sponsored persecution of homosexuals, Christian “fascism,” and the Holocaust (pp. 205-8; cf. p. 172 for a qualification of the “Christian fascism” claim). As an unrepentant defender of the essence of what Campbell calls “Justification Theory,” I can only be grateful that he does not blame the theory also for global warming and world poverty.

A review this short cannot begin to do justice to Campbell’s many-faceted, detailed, and comprehensive argument. Part 1 of the book has a largely negative function. He begins with a description of “Justification Theory” and then moves on in three chapters to enumerate and describe, successively, “intrinsic difficulties” and “systematic difficulties” with this construal of Paul’s justification language. From there follow chapters showing how “Justification Theory” struggles to explain satisfactorily Paul’s engagement with the Judaism of his day and how Paul’s description of his conversion contradicts assumptions about a “first phase” of struggle with the law that Campbell claims is intrinsic to the theory. In a chapter “Beyond Old and New Perspectives,” Campbell, with a considerable degree of repetition, lays out the problems of “Justification Theory” in terms of several debates about Paul and his theology current in the academic community. In part 2, Campbell turns to issues relating to his method in arguing his own theory. Positively, he lays out his own method, one that relies heavily on a careful reading of Paul’s discourse. Negatively, Campbell insists that such a reading must be careful

not to “lock in” Paul’s language to a particular historical construal of Paul’s teaching or to the strictures of modern European ways of thinking.

In part 3, Campbell turns his attention to

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