Pauline Soteriology: A Very Basic Analogy

Nijay has recently shared a basic analogy that he intends to use in an article on Paul's understanding of the Jewish law. This prompts me to share the equivalent account that I give of the difference between prospective and retrospective accounts of Pauline soteriology (or to use Douglas Campbell's terms, Justification Theory on the one hand and an 'apocalyptic' reading on the other).

Imagine you are at home, engaged in a demanding and complex task (say some kind of DIY exercise). Each attempt to complete the task ends in abject failure of one sort or another. So you go online, and search around the Amazon website until you find a book that promises to solve your DIY problems. You order it and wait. In the fullness of time the doorbell rings. The postperson is waiting outside, your book in their hand. But nothing, nothing at all will happen, the problem cannot be solved, the contract not fulfilled, the task not completed until you do one single and simple but fundamentally essential thing: you have to open the door.

By contrast imagine you are asleep one night. All is well with the world, and you are so deep asleep that you have little or no awareness of what is going on around you.  All of a sudden, a postperson smashes down your front door, walks up the stairs (I know, theologically speaking the bedroom should be downstairs), opens your bedroom door, flicks the light on and throws onto your bed countless myriads of those wonderful Amazon parcels which, as they fall, open to reveal Hermeneia Commentaries, a full set of von Balthasar and Barth and Bonhoeffer DBW (even perhaps those volumes that have yet to be published), Mohr Siebeck, Brill and de Gruyter monographs galore. The only issue that remains is: what am I going to do with all of this?

Its a kind of blunt instrument – but students usually get it.