Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Justification and Politics?

I'm currently reading through Douglas Campbell's Deliverance of God as mentioned in my previous post. So far it's been pretty good but one consistent critique that I've encountered in virtually every review I read of this book is its length. One particular scholar, Beverly Roberts Gaventa, summarizes this critique as such in Christian Century:

"This is a book that deserves to be read, but virtually every conversation I have heard about the volume has touched on its formidable length (some of which is in small print). Campbell insists that his project requires such length if he is to bring down the citadel of Justification theory. I fear that the length is self-defeating, as it means that only the most determined specialist will work through to the end, and Campbell will have lost the readers he most wants to persuade."

On some levels, I think I can agree, I'm currently on page 305 and he's still clearing the ground, so to speak, so that he can eventually lay down his own interpretive framework, namely, an apocalyptic reading of Paul. Be that as it may, it's been very instructive so far and in this subsection titled 'Justification and Liberal Political Individualism,' Campbell looks into John Locke's political theory to see how the Justification paradigm fits with Locke's own program, furthering its own agenda while circumventing the need to have a tight connection to the Pauline texts themselves to establish the paradigm as viable. In one subpoint, Campbell lays out a pretty strong critique:

"In addition to its enjoyment of four significant affinities with liberal politics — individual contracts, the notion of consent, the privatization of religion, and the characterization of all human relationships in terms of a discourse of currency — Justification is unable to protest very vigorously against liberal politics ... Special revelation associated with either the Scriptures or the Christian dispensation is limited to the private sphere and constrained by the individual's need for faith alone. And tradition and institutional control are repudiated as not genuinely religious. Moreover, Justification finds it notoriously difficult to generate any significant ethical observance from its converts (indeed, it arguable cannot generate this). The theory is hostile to any religious activity beyond faith, labeling it derisively as "works." The ecclesia constituted by the theory remains similarly weak; it is fundamentally individualist, confessional, and voluntarist, rooted in consent. It can ask very little from its converts. And these limitations raise a frightening prospect."

I'm still on this chapter, so we'll see where this all leads. Meanwhile, it seems that the axe that Campbell is grinding is getting bigger and bigger...

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Reading list

There's been a few comments here and here about books and what we might be reading in the upcoming year. I also have a few books that I've purchased (either a long time ago or recently) that I've been meaning to read. As always, I'm willing to bet I won't be able to read all of these books, but at least I can try!:

Paul Althaus, The Theology of Martin Luther

This is a book I won from a giveaway at this blog, and I'm looking forward to reading this book. I was set on taking a class next semester on John Calvin and the Gospel of John with Dr. Steinmetz here at Duke, but due to some circumstances that will not be the case. I've been interested in the theological impacts of the Reformation on NT studies for some time now, and I suppose this is a good book as any to get an introduction to one of the giants of the Reformation. Afterwards, I may buy this book to make up for not taking Steinmetz's class.

William Baird, History of New Testament Research, Vol. 1

I've been meaning to read through both volumes (third volume is supposedly in the works) to get a better handle on what people have said, where people have gone, and what people are saying now to better understand the landscape of NT research. I don't imagine it to be a stimulating book, but I still intend to work through it bit by bit.

Wayne C. Booth, et. al., The Craft of Research, 3rd. ed.

I read this before, but I think it would be good to read it again as I gear myself up for thesis research in the Fall semester of 2011. I'm planning to just read the relevant portions to help me be a better writer.

Douglas Campbell, The Deliverance of God: An Apocalyptic Reading of Justification in Paul

This is required reading for my Pauline theology PhD seminar next semester, but I've been meaning to read this book anyway. The Galatians seminar this semester (and its required reading of Martyn's AB commentary) I think has given me a good vantage point into the 'apocalyptic reading' of Paul that Campbell proposes here.

Bruce J. Malina, The New Testament World, Insights from Cultural Anthropology

I obtained this book as review copy from WJK press and it's about time I got around to doing a review for it.

J. Louis Martyn, History and Theology in the Fourth Gospel

I read this book a couple years ago, and at the time, to be honest, a lot of it went over my head. I couldn't quite grasp what Martyn was getting at, but after a few years reading through various books on the GJohn, etc., I think it's time that I read this book again. Plus we just finished reading through all of Martyn's AB commentary on Galatians and I feel confident that I can trace his thoughts a bit better this time along. Also, I'm considering taking Joel Marcus' Greek Exegesis of GJohn next semester and this may be a required reading for that class.

Mark Noll, Turning Points, Decisive Moments in the History of Christianity

I bought this book a long time ago and I've been meaning to read it. Christian history has always been a fascinating subject to me, and I think this will be a light book to read from time to time, to get myself away from monographs and journal articles.

Whew, that's a long list, and this doesn't even include a bunch of required readings in my upcoming classes. Hopefully I'll be able to get through most of the readings.

For my readers out there, are there any recent biographies on Christian figures of the past worth reading? This year I finished one on Bonhoeffer and one on G.E. Ladd, and they have both been very good books to read apart from the typical NT studies related things I immerse myself in. Any suggestions are welcome!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010


Pronunciation: \ˈtōm\

1. a book, esp. a very heavy, large, or learned book.
2. a volume forming a part of a larger work.

From time to time, I've seen various books referred to as "tomes," but I don't think any of them comes close to this one:

Amazing! The book comes in at 1248 pages (at least that's what Amazon says, though the page numbering actually ends at 1218 [probably earlier unmarked pages = 30 pp.]), with four parts that are broken down into 21 chapters. I'm really excited to start on this "tome," as I was given permission by Dr. Campbell to enroll in his PhD seminar on Pauline theology for the Spring semester. I've done work on Corinthians, Galatians, and 1 Thessalonians, but not much on Romans, so this should be an exciting but also challenging class to help me think after Paul's thoughts.

I hope I can walk away from this with some measure of confidence that I have grasped a little bit more of Paul's theology. From what I heard, Campbell has an interesting take on it which should make our classes very interesting. He mentioned in the introduction to the book that this work is over ten years in the making, so it's no surprise that it is so hefty. I was already intimidated by books that come in at pages number counts such as 535, 718, 740, 741, and 876, but this one is at 1248! Hope I can get through this in a timely manner...

Tuesday, December 7, 2010


First there was this ultra-funny Old Spice commercial:

Then there's this, New Spice:

HT: Near Emmaus