on 26 May 2012
This book is amazing- no two ways about it. The biggest strengths I find are the final third of the book where Campbell explicitly builds his hermeneutic, and his critique of the New Perspective position on Justification.
The biggest weakness I found, though, was his analysis of Justification Theory (JT). He sort of says "some people might think this section (the first large section) is a strawman argument" but he never really answers the challenge. He spends an inordinate amount of time dissecting this JT [which, by the way,I didn't recognise as belonging to ANYONE!], but his flat dismissal of the Calvinist perspectives on God-led transformation (which is effectively what he ends up arguing for) is just dismissed as "inadequate!"
As if the Arminian reading of Justification by faith made more sense as a moral choice based on logical conclusions about man's predicament- Campbell notes the difficulties in drawing this from Paul. But his own idea- 'Pneumatologically Participatory Martyrological Eschatology' is extremely similar to much calvinist preaching. That is to say the language campbell uses to explain his theory sound just like a calvinist:
* God's Spirit works through the Earth and the human situation, "sweeping up" people into God's deliverance- saving them by identification in Christ.
* Baptism is an identification in the martyrdom of the cross, embodying the all-encompasing Christian life which is inextricably linked to growth in holiness and spirituality.
* The deliverance of God reaches its finality in the eschaton.
This is, to my view, just classic (good) calvinism.
The second section I found weak was his idea that the 'moralizing' passages- such as Romans 1:18- the end of the chapter - should be voiced by "the teacher" who Paul is arguing against. campbell sort of says 'Paul doesn't really believe that God is intimately interested in the sexual conduct of his people; he's just doing an impression of someone who thinks He is'. I don't think Campbell makes a strong enough case for us to think that we should read the second part of Romans 1 in a different voice, it slots nicely together with the unerringly Pauline tone of other passages detailing a distinct preoccupation with sexuality and sin- 1 Corinthians and Galatians 5-6 spring to mind.
My last complaint about this book is that Campbell relies too heavily on his idea that some people rely too much on Romans 1-4 to supply their theology; other too much on 5-8, others still on 9-11. He criticises the Reformed position on this count, without ever really dealing with the fact that Reformed commentators have been dealing absolutely rigorously with the other parts of Romans for quite a long time! It's like he considered their contributions to the passage he thought 'belonged to them' and didn't consider the colossal contributions made to the rest of Romans. The same goes for the New Perspective.
But (and it is a big one), you have to read this book if you are serious about Pauline scholarship, and serious about Justification. There simply is no other way- you'll have to go over him, under him, smash through him, or go around him; but Douglas Campbell is here to stay. Fantastic book, well worth the cost and weight!