A Foretaste of my Review of Campbell’s “Deliverance of God” (1)

I have been buried for two weeks writing various essays and presentations, including my review of The Deliverance of God at SBL. I will post more extensive excerpts after the fact, but here are a few brief excerpts to whet the appetite.

1. Douglas’s thesis: “Before presenting his own gospel to the Romans, Paul cites and ridicules the false gospel of the Teacher(s), the outline of which can be found, mixed with some response from Paul, in 1:18—3:20. Rom 1:18—3:20 is simultaneously ‘the intrusion of an alien discourse’ (p. 934) and ‘a reduction to absurdity’ of the Teacher’s alternative gospel (p. 528), by which not even the Teacher himself can be saved (568, 572, 593 et passim). Paul’s own views, according to Douglas, are preserved in Romans 5-8, which presents a liberative, participatory soteriology. This is the heart of his ‘alternative theory’ to Justification theory, and Douglas’s rereading will ‘essentially eliminate Justification theory and all its associated difficulties’ (p. 525; cf. pp. 527-28).” (He lists about 50 such difficulties!)

2. Summary of my review: “I blurbed Douglas’s book and was possibly the most positive of the five who did so:

Douglas Campbell’s continuation of the quest for Paul’s gospel is a bold exercise in deconstruction and reconstruction. One may disagree with parts of the analysis, or take a somewhat different route to the same destination, but his overall thesis is persuasive: for Paul, justification is liberative, participatory, transformative, Trinitarian, and communal. This is a truly theological and ecumenical work with which all serious students of Paul must now come to terms.

This means, more bluntly, that in my estimation Douglas is both profoundly right (‘his overall thesis is persuasive’) and simultaneously off the mark (‘One may disagree with parts of the analysis, or take a somewhat different route to the same destination’). Fortunately, he is terribly right where it really matters: in his perceptive characterization of the liberative and participatory character of justification in Paul. Unfortunately, the relatively narrow topic of this panel’s review—the book’s treatment of Romans 1-3—is where Douglas is, I think, off the mark.”

Have any of you read DOG yet? Any thoughts?

12 Responses to “A Foretaste of my Review of Campbell’s “Deliverance of God” (1)”

  1. Israel Lee says:

    Just got a copy of it two weeks ago. An expensive and massive tome, but your comments have generally helped me to focus on the main themes of Campbell’s argument. Thanks.

  2. Craig Downey says:

    I haven’t read the book yet but I was intrigued by the blurb on amazon. In light of the ways it sounds like Campbell is trying to read Romans 1.18 – 3.20 I’m curious whether he will be able to overcome falling prey to the very critique he is making against older interpretation which were driven by modern political traditions. It sounds like his interpretation might just as well be driven by contemporary political concerns. I’m excited to see whether he will make a convincing case for his reading or not. It doesn’t sound like many reviewers are very convinced. From what I can tell by all the online blog review, love it or hate it, Campbell’s volume is worth diving into and I’m looking forward to it.

    While I’m thinking about it, I want to extend a thank you for your lecture last year on Paul and non-violence here at Princeton Seminary. It left me wrestling with a number of new things I hadn’t previously thought about.

    While I’m thinking about it, I want to extend a thank you for you lecture last year on Paul and non-violence here at Princeton Seminary. It left me wrestling with a number of new things I hadn’t previously thought about.

  3. S.Daniel Owens says:

    I think that most people will never accept his rereading of Rom 3 but the question is can anyone disprove it? I am going to SBL just for this discussion and will be curious to see if most argue for their understanding or against his. I wonder if the most problematic piece of his work is that he is claiming the gospel that has been preached in most churches is the other gospel?

  4. MJG says:


    Thanks for the response. It is clear that Douglas is driven by certain political concerns, which he also sees (rightly) as theological concerns, including (among others) issues of Christian-Jewish relations and homosexuality, both of which are addressed in distinctly postmodern ways by his reading of Romans.

    As for the lecture on violence, thank you. Douglas has an excellent excursus, totally independent of my reading, that comes to very similar conclusions (see his pages 89-94), but of course he and I are not driven there by any contemporary political concerns; it’s just pure, unadulterated, correct theological exegesis. :-)


    I think it’s not Romans 3 that will be the main issue but 1 and 2 (maybe you meant 1-3). I think a good case can be made in support of his reading (on the whole) of chaps 5-8 AND against his reading of chaps 1-2 on his own terms. We’ll see if I’m convincing!


    “Enjoy” the read; it’s worth it. I will post another few thoughts without saying too much before SBL.

  5. Craig Downey says:

    Dr. Gorman,
    you make a fine point (with a very nice touch of sarcasm! :) ). I would entirely agree that theological concerns are inherently political concerns. I would also agree that we are certainly not observers who can approach the text from some neutral vantage point. I think our contemporary political concerns should drive us towards the text with new questions to see what light Scripture can shed on them. My worry isn’t that, but rather I’m more concerned that the exegetical tail would end up wagging the dog (as Tom Wright has said somewhere); I’m more concerned that our contemporary political concerns would, just as modern political concerns did, force an “intrusive paradigm” and “theologically unhealthy theoretical construct” (as the Amazon blurb for Campbell book says) onto the texts bending them out of shape. I guess the question then becomes how do we identify those unhealthy theological paradigms and constructs? I think Gadamer is onto something when he talks about the need to put our presuppositions into “play” with the text, and with one another, which is why I’m excited to put my presuppositions into “play” with Campbell’s book. It sounds like from your review and other that Campbell won’t allow one to be unmoved in their positions without considerable thought.

  6. MJG says:


    Thanks for these thoughts. I hope that thoughtful responses to Campbell’s work will challenge him in this area. (It’s not the focus of the panel, but it could be. WHY does he need to rule Romans 1-2 out??) He reveals his presuppositions, but he does not subject them to the same scrutiny to which he subjects the advocates of Justification theory. (OK, he subjects them to NO scrutiny!)

  7. MJG says:

    Thanks, Andy!

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