A Foretaste of my Review of Campbell’s “Deliverance of God” (2)

Campbell on the Nonviolent Paul

One of the real gems in The Deliverance of God is an excursus entitled “The Case—Briefly—against Coercive Violence in Paul” (pp. 89-94). It is offered in as an argument for the superiority of Campbell’s “alternative theory” to “Justification theory” because the latter leads to coercion and violent punishment. (Bear with me if you are not so sure about that.)

Campbell makes six main points:

1. The cross, the center of Paul’s soteriology, is noncoercive and nonviolent. Those who participate in Christ participate in his nonviolent reaction to injustice.

2. Despite their sinfulness, Paul views non-Christians essentially benevolently. He is fundamentally not interested in retributive justice for them.

3. Paul’s attitude is especially important given his violent past, which, in Christ, he has repudiated.

4. Paul never uses coercion in his evangelism.

5. Paul repudiates vengeance by Christians.

6. Paul reinterprets military images metaphorically.

It is about time that NT scholars start taking Paul’s perspective on violence and nonviolence seriously! I have made some similar arguments in chapter four of my book Inhabiting the Cruciform God, though there I focus more on the role of the resurrection in Paul’s transformation and the resulting ethic, and also, more briefly, in Reading Paul.

7 Responses to “A Foretaste of my Review of Campbell’s “Deliverance of God” (2)”

  1. elias tannous says:

    hi Dr.Gorman,

    The non-violence of paul is a very important matter especially now. I live in israel (I`m an arab christian) and this last week a man was caught for trying to kill people of the political left, gays and messianic jews. In one of the writings he left in one of the places he tried to attack people he incouraged others: “be like pinhas”. In a land where so many acts of violence are done in the name of God we need to be convinced again and again that Jesus and Paul insisted on non-violence. thanx for these fortastes.

  2. T says:

    Yes. It seems the key is to see that Paul’s “participative” understanding of Christ is of at least equal importance with his “substitutionary” view of Christ and his work. I’ve got my own theory of how a substitutionary view, when taken or elevated in isolation, can lead not only to condoning violence, but a host of other “anti-Christ” ethics (regarding money, for instance), but I’m curious to see Campbell’s argument in full. But those are powerful points.

  3. MJG says:


    Bless you for sharing this real-life story of how important all this is. It is powerful and more than a bit chilling. Paul WAS a Phinehas and left him in the dust when Jesus arrested him.


    Good to hear from you. I think substitution theory CAN lead to such errors, though I’m not sure it always does. In any event, participation should prevent many of them.

  4. T says:

    Yes; and “can lead” was probably too strong in any event. “Can help rationalize” is probably better.

    Campbell’s 6 points are powerful, as is elias’ story.

  5. MJG says:

    Many thanks, Andy.

  6. [...] The Deliverance of God. Michael Gorman posted some previews of his contribution in four parts, one, two, three and four, with a retrospective part five after the panel. Amomng other bloggers Chris [...]

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