Archive for November 10th, 2009

More on Campbell’s “Deliverance of God” (3)

Tuesday, November 10th, 2009

At the end of the book, Douglas summarizes his view of Paul’s gospel as “the countervailing gospel [i.e., contra Justification Discourse] of sanctification, ethical efficacy, and ecclesial community” (p. 935); I think this is a fabulous summary of Paul. In the same context he claims that his argument

is meant to be an important moment in the advance to ecclesial and scholarly triumph of the participatory and apocalyptic gospel, which is also really to say, of the Trinitarian gospel—an ecumenical gospel that both Protestants and Catholics can presumably affirm (obviously in accord with both the Orthodox and most post-modern Protestant traditions), a gospel both old and new…. an authentic and orthodox Pauline gospel. (p. 934; cf. my similar comments in the Introduction to Inhabiting, p. 8, n. 22)

Douglas has indeed rendered a tremendous service both to Pauline scholarship and to the church. He rightly insists that the material content of Romans 5-8, transformation or sanctification or “ontological reconstitution” (e.g., p. 185), is not supplemental to the gospel or to justification but constitutive of them:

Paul’s account of sanctification is his gospel. His description of deliverance and cleansing “in Christ,” through the work of the Spirit, at the behest of the Father, the entire process being symbolized by baptism, is the good news. It requires no supplementation by other [e.g., “contractual”] systems. (p. 934; cf. pp. 187-88)

However, Douglas believes that his thesis about 1:18—3:20 as “alien discourse,” and only this thesis, elevates Romans 5-8 “to its rightful status” (p. 934), because his thesis, and only his thesis, makes it possible to “affirm coherently that ‘God justifies the ungodly,’” that is, that God unconditionally delivers those enslaved to Sin (p. 934). While I strongly affirm his overall interpretation of Paul’s gospel, I think Douglas’s reading of 1:18—3:20 is wrong, and that his reading of Paul’s gospel does not depend on his reading of 1:18—3:20.

More to come…


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