Douglas Campbell’s Critique of N.T. Wright’s PFG

Over at the journal Scottish Journal of Theology, Douglas A. Campbell has published a further critique of N.T. Wright’s Paul and the Faithfulness of God.

Campbell offered his initial review of Wright’s book at Marginalia on N.T. Wright and the Lutheran-ness of Paul (2015), but he has more to say in a new article “Panoramic Lutheranism and apocalyptic ambivalence: An appreciative critique of N. T. Wright’s Paul and the Faithfulness of God,” SJT 69.4 (2016): 453-73.  Though sadly, the article does not engage with Wright’s response to some of his critics in The Paul Debate where he does address some of the issues raised by Campbell.

In a nutshell, Campbell claims:

The basic agenda and resulting architecture of N. T. Wright’s reconstruction of Paul’s theology in Paul and the Faithfulness of God are a dramatic and brilliant break with most previous analyses and an important step forward. But closer analysis suggests that his project also contains some serious problems. First, it is not well executed: there are basic problems of method and exegesis with Wright’s manner of reading Paul’s texts. Second, Lutheranism and various modern dichotomies have not been purged sufficiently thoroughly from Wright’s reconstruction of Paul’s thought, resulting in tensions of truly tectonic proportions. One is left with the impression of a magnificent venture foundering in its haste – haste perhaps extending back to the venture’s original design, when certain contradictory tendencies needed to be confronted and solved, but were not.

I’m not sure the Lutheran accusation will stick (gosh, what would Mark Seifrid or Stephen Westerholm say to that!) especially since Wright’s political theology is definitely more Church of England than Lutheran. And I doubt that Wright’s plight-to-solution postulation of Paul is distinctive of Lutheranism but pretty much pertains to most schemes of Christian theology, ancient, medieval, and modern.

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