Today I have finally acquired a copy of Douglas Campbell's The Deliverance of God. I have resisted until now because of the sheer size and the vast price, so when I found a pristine copy going for a comparative song at a second hand book shop this morning, I thought 'oh, go on, then...'
I am due to teach a course on Romans from the beginning of February and since Campbell's book is seeking to make an argument about Romans, I thought it would be good to have it to refer to. I have read some bits and pieces of it before (in library copies) and remain to be convinced that his central suggestion that not all of Romans 1-4 represents the thinking of Paul but rather that of a rival teacher he is seeking to correct holds any water.
It's an intimidating read - there are 300 pages of thicket clearing before he actually gets to Romans! The introduction does contain one insight that has set me thinking, however - and augurs well for the journey ahead. He argues that 'at the heart of the conventional "Lutheran" approach to these texts...are powerful commitments to individualism, to rationalism, and to consent.' He goes on to suggest that Luther's reading of Romans (and Galatians) were heavily influenced by the prevailing renaissance culture with its strong attachment to humanism and individualism.
It is of course not new to suggest that protestant and evangelical formulations of the faith are deeply indebted to modern and even enlightenment thinking. But it is new (at least, it is to me) to have a scholar arguing that the very reading of the core texts of protestant Christianity owe more to the renaissance than they do to the apostle Paul.
I am interested to see what Campbell makes of this because one of my current study interests is the whole area of the relationship between literacy and spirituality - both in the NT world (where literacy rates were very low) and in our context (where literacy rates are high but people read less and less - especially in the areas of theology and Christian spirituality).I am wondering if we need to develop a hermeneutics of the faith that is based on oral culture rather than reading, much as the one Paul operated in; wondering if evangelical renewal will come via hearing rather than reading.
And I wondering if a 1200+ page book is going to help me!