So, things have been very quiet for a while. There are reasons, most of them too mundane and too boring to go into here. But after a hiatus, there is often the need of something energizing, something from beyond that serves to prompt new thinking and perhaps some blogging.
The much needed shove has come to me in the form of a 1218 page, long-expected monograph on Paul's theology, courtesy of Dove Booksellers (whose excellent service I appreciate here in the Antipodes in ways I never did while in the UK). Douglas Campbell's The Deliverance of God: An Apocalyptic Rereading of Justification in Paul (Eerdmans, 2009).
I want to spend between now and the end of the year working carefully through Campbell's book (advance notice – there will at least two major gaps in this plan courtesy of a UK visit in late Sep-early Oct and SBL in Nov; I am not carrying that bloody thing in my hand luggage). Here is why.
In the Preface, Campbell offers a kind of personal intellectual history that spans the period from the book's genesis in the early 1990's and its completion in 2007. Much of that history will be fascinating to anyone who has tried / is trying to turn an initial insight into a complete, coherent and sustained argument. However, the thing that fascinated me about these opening pages is Campbell's experience of developing his argument exegetically at a reasonably early stage (especially in relation to Romans 1-4), but encountering criticism of his proposals 'for presuppositional, not exegetical, reasons.' (xxvi).
I come at this book from the other end. I have a great deal of sympathy with the basic hermeneutical stance of the work and its proposed way of treating Paul. I read Paul as an apocalyptic theologian, and agree that traditional concerns with foundationalism, not least via a contractual understanding of justification language, is detrimental both to our understanding of Paul, but far more importantly to our understanding of the gospel (a link that Campbell provocatively names as 'the link between exegesis and execution', p.xxvii).
So what I want to find out is whether such a stance (which is as much a result of basic theological and political instincts as they are of my having done all the necessary exegetical work) is actually borne out in the exegesis itself. So that is why I want to read this book, and hopefully discuss it as I read it: how does the exegesis relate to the wider agenda and, in the last resort, do I find it convincing?