Archive for November 19th, 2009

Reviewing Campbell (4)

Thursday, November 19th, 2009

So far I’ve been positive. However (before I head off to SBL)…

Douglas is quite certain, and quite dismayed, that Romans 1-3, especially 1:18-32, contains a “prospective” soteriology of desert. But I would contend that this analysis is misguided. The allegedly prospective character of Romans 1-3 should not be confused either with Paul’s basic understanding of the structure of the gospel itself or with the structure of the “plan of salvation” that Paul presented to potential converts. Romans 1-3, as part of the rhetorical and theological structure of the letter to the Romans—not of Paul’s gospel or preaching—is exactly what Douglas says it is not: a retrospective argument.

The early part of Romans does not contain a soteriology of desert based on divine retributive justice but rather a theology (properly speaking) of fairness (divine impartiality) and an anthropology of commonality—specifically of common requirement and common inability due, ultimately, to a common enslavement. Indeed, there is really no soteriology in these chapters at all. The texts that might be read as presenting a soteriology of desert function rhetorically and theologically for Paul, not to portray the means to salvation, but rather to indicate the need for such a means outside of the self, precisely because of the explicit and implicit anthropological affirmations (what Douglas calls “ontology”) found throughout Romans 1-3. These affirmations can only be made retrospectively, in light of Christ and of being in Christ.


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