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~


Blogger Sean Winter said...

Hi Andrew
I look forward to reading your comments. I think you are a bit harsh on the style. The PPME stuff has definitely gone, and the density of the prose is largely the result of attempting to be philosophically and systematically precise. There are some flashes of wit in there as well.
Happy reading

Blogger Andrew said...

I think his style is unacceptably difficult. I am used to reading complex philosophical and theological texts that are jargon-filled, but Campbell takes the cake. There have at times been paragraphs where I reached then end and realized I hadn't really understood what he was getting at.

On the page I was just reading, for example, Campbell has written a sentence that goes: "So it follows in turn that any potentially effective non-theoretical solution will still have to satisfy the basic plausibility criteria operative in relation to claims made about the Pauline data in the base - the needs for exegetical "fit," for argumentative integrity, and for plausible explanations at the general cultural, proximate, and circumstantial frames."

I don't consider that acceptable. It stands in stark contrast to someone like EP Sanders who is always a pleasure to read because his style is so clear.

Blogger atti2dchic said...

"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."

Hey Andrew! Just wanted to comment that you have always made things easy for me to understand. Even when discussing extremely difficult concepts (to me). So, I just wanted to say thanks and to let you know that you do a great job of it.

And while I have not read the book, I will still look forward to reading your comments. :)

Blogger Loren Rosson III said...

Hi Andrew,

I just reviewed Campbell's book here. It's quite an accomplishment, and forces hard questions, though I think he fails in liberating Rom 1-4 from the "evil clutches" of justification theory.

Blogger Marie said...

That would drive me nuts. I like the meatier books, but that's over the top.


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