Monday, June 1, 2020

A note about justification (righteousness) in Paul

2 Corinthians 3:9

If the ministry that brought condemnation was glorious, how much more glorious is the ministry that brings righteousness. (NIV)

For if there was glory in the ministry of condemnation, much more does the ministry of justification abound in glory! (NRSV)

If glory accompanied the ministry that brought condemnation, how much richer in glory must be the ministry that brings acquittal! (REB)

For if the service of bringing judgement against [is, or was] glory, how much more in glory excels the service of righteousness (making just). (My translation).

Why note this?

Because recently on ADU there have been discussions about Doug Campbell's recent works, The Deliverance of God and Pauline Dogmatics, which have raised the question how important "justification by faith" is to Paul's gospel.

2 Corinthians 3:9 implies is it very important because "service of righteousness/justification" sums up the gospel when compared to the Law.



    Two blogs, Peter? I admire your energy :-)

    "...discussions about Doug Campbell's recent works, The Deliverance of God and Pauline Dogmatics... have raised the question how important "justification by faith" is to Paul's gospel." And just so, got bogged in the swamp between confused Biblish, St Paul's Greek, and what Campbell wrote.

    While fat books cannot be summarized in skinny slogans, it is cleaner and closer to Campbell's argument to say that St Paul's thought about salvation has at least five distinctives--

    (a) It delivers from bondage to the powers, not from a universal divine wrath;

    (b) The resurrection and ascension are causes of salvation as necessary as the cross;

    (c) It is transformative *metanoia* through participation in the New Adam, not a forensic acquittal without change;

    (d) Full participation in the New Adam is not possible without participation in his congregated Body;

    (e) The need for salvation can only be recognised backward through the events that delivered it.

    Now, there is plenty of *pistis* and *dikaio-* in Campbell's argument, but not the sort of *justification by faith* that in some understandings opposes all five points--

    (a') Salvation is the circumvention of a universal divine wrath;

    (b') The circumvention is accomplished on the cross;

    (c') Salvation is simply a forensic acquittal from the guilt of disobedience;

    (d') God saves individuals apart from other particular souls, but rallies are good for morale;

    (e') Disobedience to divine commandment was the obvious need to which the sacrifice of the cross was the surprising solution.

    That is, individual faith is everywhere in Campbell, but not as the spigot in the plumbing for grace from the cross that it is in some other approaches.

    Caution: neither these five points of Campbellism nor their antitheses fully describe any actual church. Campbell is not Orthodox, but as far as it goes, those who are would have no objection to his system. Campbell's opponents are not Gnostics, but the antitheses that they embrace are very congenial to a dematerialised religiosity that the ancient Gnostics could have adopted if they had thought of it. The incompleteness of what is, after all, an interpretation of Paul rather than a summa should be taken into account with charity.

    For that reason, readers who are persuaded by the same ideas in Campbell's work will find themselves in different positions in the end. Some will work with them as a whole shorn of antitheses that are old and seem obsolete. But others-- in some places, the majority-- will incorporate what they find in Campbell into fuller versions of them. Since all are reading the whole Bible, and Paul, never mind Campbell, is incomplete anyway, who can say in advance which approach is better?


  2. Thanks Bowman
    I once gave this blog more frequent attention but now it continues as a place to post occasional thoughts that I think may be of less interest to the general reader of ADU!

    Rightly you point out that a sentence or so in 1 Corinthians does not settle a complex debate between nunanced positions in scholarship that seeks to elucidate the whole of "Pauline dogmatics"!
    Thank you :)

  3. Occasionally, Peter, a reader happens into your blogs on a mission to defend from perceived attack what he-- almost never she-- already thinks about the Bible. In this instance, Campbell very much is demonstrating the inadequacy of the antitheses above, so scrutiny of his theses is not only reasonable, but warmly welcomed.

    But more often these doughty defenders wave their swords against biblical scholarship that their exegetical tribe has for one reason or another found threatening. For future reference, seven thoughts for them--

    (a) Be not, in a spirit of narcissistic grandiosity, a hero in thine own mind. Where few read books, these are more often doorstops than grave threats to Christendom, and the belligerence of a Phinehas is patently crazy. Lance-wielding knights in armour galloping up the steps of libraries to skewer some lone reader on the eleventh floor should not charge into elevators.

    (b) Many evangelicals have become wiser in the word through a close study of Ben T Witherington III's classic Problem of Evangelical Theology: Testing The Exegetical Foundations Of Calvinism, Dispensationalism, Wesleyanism, and Pentecostalism. Here, it can be helpful for an evangelical to know where the standard methods showed the usual positions to be weak long before any revisionists arrived on the scene.

    (c) To St Paul, a peaceful spirit is a symptom of the mind of Christ. Serene comparative reasoning can be a very good thing-- see Witherington!-- but rage is patently incompatible with a Spirit-taught understanding of the text.

    (d) Certain walking is louder than talking. If a defender's tribe rejects a participative soteriology for an anachronistic modern individualism, then why does he defend its reading as though it had an exclusive authority? Such authoritarianism already compromises his individualism at least as much as anything new that is being said hereabouts.

    (e) On this dignity-minded blog, that contradiction of being and saying matters. Participative soteriology points to a life in Christ that is open to the creation and hence concerned for God's rule in it. Conversely. readings that are indifferent to his compassion for others often collapse into the modern delusion that every man is an island. On which, see Soren Kierkegaard (a personalist rather than an individualist) at right.

    (f) If one understands the scriptures to be inspired insofar as they are an agent of the Holy Spirit in history, then what is the Holy Spirit doing with that agency? Or, if the Holy Spirit is not manifestly doing anything with the scriptures in history, then in what contemporaneous way did the apostles and fathers think that they were inspired?

    (g) Kindly note that the challenges of (a-f) are usually just two things-- (i) when one talks about God's word, does one exhibit an emotional maturity that is congruent with that word? (ii) is one's reading of the word relatively free of ideologies that are only a few centuries less modern than what one's tribe opposes?

    Often, new ideas do not so much threaten what our doughty defenders truly know for themselves as their respective tribes' lack of agape for others in the Lord.


  4. Thanks Bowman!
    I keep learning lots from your exposition of Paul and his commentary "team" :)
    Your last sentence links well to the current portion of Campbell's Dogmatics which I am reading, about Paul as a man of peace and reconciliation, more MLK than Martin Luther ...