Thursday, September 17, 2009

Review: Deliverance of God - Review Introduction

Douglas Campbell's 1000-page tome, The Deliverance of God: An Apocalyptic Rereading of Justification in Paul is finally available. It argues that the traditional Protestant/Lutheran reading of Paul is fundamentally all wrong. Rather, a completely and utterly different paradigm of salvation is in fact taught by Paul.

I will be reviewing, discussing, and engaging with this book on this blog over the coming weeks. I may quite possibly also engage with the views of other bloggers who discuss it (such as Andy Goodliff and Sean the Baptist).

I was looking forward to the book having read Campbell's earlier work The Quest for Paul's Gospel and finding myself in essential agreement with him. Campbell and I both agree about the basic paradigm of salvation over against traditional Protestant thinking. Since my own views are roughly a mix of those of Sanders, Dunn, Campbell and Stowers, I am anticipating an overall agreement with Campbell's basic ideas throughout the book, with various disagreements on particulars.

One thing that really annoys me about Campbell's writing style that I want to get out of the way right now and so never have to repeat in this series is that he over-complicates things. As a child I was once told that anyone could make simple ideas sound complex and hard to understand, but the sign of an intelligent person was making complex ideas simple. As a result, I have worked throughout my life on the skill of explaining complex things simply, and like to think I am pretty good at it. I've come to see there are many many advantages in keeping things simple and avoiding jargon, and that so often people who use complex jargon make things hard for themselves. Campbell on the other hand, seems to love using the longest and most complex words possible. A good example is what we use to describe our paradigm of salvation:
  • Most scholars' jargon-label for our position: "Apocalyptic"
  • My label: "Moral transformation"
  • Campbell's label: "Pneumatologically participatory martyrological eschatology" [!]
Okay, so that example comes from Campbell's previous work, and in the current work he has relabeled his position to "the alternative paradigm". However his basic writing style hasn't changed and he seems to love discussing "epistemological, anthropological, christological and eschatological implications of soteriological paradigms"... ~sigh~