A Gospel that Sets Us Free! The Apocalyptic Gospel

A Gospel that Sets Us Free! The Apocalyptic Gospel April 3, 2015

In a previous post I grabbed Douglas Campbell’s detailed, analytical outline of what he calls “Justification Theory,” a view of the gospel that is shaped by a kind of merits and credits (though in divine reckoning), and today I want to grab the theory he thinks Paul adhered to, a more liberation gospel, one that sets us free. It comes from his book The Deliverance of God: An Apocalyptic Rereading of Justification in Paul.

At the end of the post I re-post the original Justification Theory post. It’s a good day to be considering the gospel and its glorious benefits, whether you are more of a Justification Theory person or an Apocalyptic Theory person. (Campbell himself does not think Paul himself was a Justification Theorist but thinks instead it was the “gospel” — in at least ironic form — of his opponents.)

Big question: How does one evangelize in this “apocalyptic gospel” approach? How does that differ from evangelism in the Justification Theory approach?

The First Phase: Unconditional Deliverance 

1a. Salvation has arrived for the “brothers” unconditionally, at the behest of the Father, through the Son, bringing a spectrum of blessings — life, peace, hope, glory, dominion, reconciliation, atonement, ethical capacity, and so on.

1b. It is a dramatic, apocalyptic deliverance, inaugurating certain fundamental changes, and thereby prompting a reevaluation of the human problem in its light.

The Second Phase: A Retrospective Characterization of the Problem 

2a. The powers of Sin and Death have entered the world by way of the original transgression of Gods commandment by humanity — an Adamic narrative.

2b. These hostile powers have taken up residence in human flesh.

2c. Humanity, powerless ultimately to resist, is effectively enslaved — ruled and oppressed by way of “sinful passions,” and hence oriented by and toward Sin and Death.

2d. The existence of humanity is consequently wretched, and its destiny is death.

2e. Any ongoing presence of a divine commandment exacerbates the problem, as Sin manipulates such instructions to create more transgressions!

2f. Unredeemed humanity now cannot comprehend either the problem or the solution.

The Saving Phase: The Father Sends the Son 

3a. The Father views enslaved humanity with benevolence, desiring to help them.

3b. He sends his only beloved Son into this situation, to assume its distorted, Adamic ontology — its flesh. (3a is proved by 3b.)

3c. The Son consents to enter this existence, to suffer, and to die, thereby demonstrating his benevolence. In this act, Adamic ontology, or the flesh, as it is present in him, is also executed — an event that can be described in some sense as “atoning.”

3d. The Son is raised from the dead to new life, thereby entering the new age — the age to come — as its firstborn and “image.”

3e. The Son is glorified and enthroned on high; his eternal messiahship and inheritance are thereby affirmed.

The Saving Phase: The Spirit Incorporates Humanity in Christ 

4a. The Spirit now “maps” humanity onto Christ’s trajectory.

4b. Humans participate first in his martyrological journey, thereby dying; in so doing, their Adamic ontology is executed.

4c. Humans participate also in his messianic and eschatological journey, thereby living; in so doing, they receive a new ontology — a new flesh free from the powers of Sin and Death, and a new inheritance.

4d. This salvation is fundamentally liberative (in an instance of negative liberty); it is a deliverance from slavery!

4e. The salvific process is best symbolized by immersion, that ritual being interpreted as a dying and rising with Christ.

4f. The new situation for Christians is typically summarized by Paul with the phrase “in Christ,” or its close equivalent — a metaphor of location.

4g. This new situation is fundamentally communal and interpersonal: Christians join a community rooted in a divine communion.

4h. Implicit in this is a new conception of personhood, as precisely relational — within a communion.

Now to Campbell’s “justification theory.”

Justification Theory

Douglas A. Campbell, The Quest for Paul’s Gospel: A Suggested Strategy (2005), 160-162.

The first phase: the rigorous contract

The opening progression

1 a.     God is omnipotent (and presumably also omnipresent and omniscient).

1 b.      God’s omnipotence is known to everyone from the cosmos without (1a from 1b).

1c.      God is just.

1d.       The content of righteousness derives from God’s moral nature (1d derives from 1c).

1e.       God’s moral demands in terms of righteousness are revealed to Jews through written legislation (1c and d).

1 f.        God’s moral demands are known to everyone else innately (so 1c and d via 1b).

1g.        Salvation will be apportioned by God (so 1a) in relation to the individual’s fulfillment of His revealed moral demands (so 1c—f), i.e. through righteous behavior, which constitutes righteousness, and hence on the basis of desert. ‘If you do X, then you will be rewarded; if not, then you will be punished.’ Note that this salvation can be experienced in this life in terms of blessing, prosperity, etc.

2a.       Humans are rational (see 1b, 1f, and also, to a degree, 1e).

2b.      Humans are self-interested.

2c.       Humans therefore desire to be saved (2b related to 1g; effected by 1a).

2d.      Humans must attempt to behave righteously (1g), and can do so because they know the content of righteousness (1d-f), which ultimately stems from God’s just moral nature (1c).

The future eschatological caveat

3a.        Any injustices in relation to desert within life on earth will be rectified by a final judgment at the end of the present age.

3b.       Those dead will be resurrected in order to take part in this through 1a.

3c.       The future age will contain a positive state, ‘heaven’, again through 1a.

3d.       The future age will contain a negative state, ‘hell’, again through 1a.

3e.       God will determine on this ‘day’ (through 1a) which state each individual will enter on the basis of desert (3a, 3b, 2d, and 1g). The righteous will enjoy the positive state (3c), and the unrighteous the negative state (3d).

The introspective twist

4a.       Humans are inherently sinful; that is, everyone violates God’s moral demands (and probably often, in which case see also the supplementary argumentative ‘loop’ immediately following).

4b.       Honest self-reflection notes the consistent production of immoral deeds, that is, the truth of 4a.

4c.       Such self-reflection concludes, in an accurate anticipation, that God’s final judgment will be negative (see 3e and 3d).

4d.       Rational individuals are now afraid, and desire somehow to avoid this inevitable consequence.

The loop of despair (correct)

1’.        In view of this, individuals might undertake a renewed attempt to be righteous (2a-d in accordance with 1g, and le and/or f).

2’.        This will, however, also fail, as 4a continues, noted by 4b, and so the conclusion of 4c will be reiterated, leading to a strengthened 4d!

The loop of foolishness (incorrect)

1a”.      Resistant individuals perceive and claim themselves to be righteous.

1b’’.     They are in fact not righteous (no one is free from all sin: so 4d).

1c”.      Therefore, they are being dishonest with themselves, specifically, by underestimating their sinfulness and/or overestimating their rectitude.

1d”.     Their judgment is also morally deficient.

1e”.     This holds the more, the more moral information they have (i.e. for Jews: see 1e).

1f”.      If they boast of their righteousness to others, they are liars and fakes.

1g”.     If they upbraid others, and exhort others to imitate them, they are hypocritical and judgmental.

1h ‘’.    If they continue this calculus and its behavior, they are irrational and obstinate, courting hell.

1i’’.      If they invoke the names of God and religion they are religious charlatans.

2’’.       The correct conclusion (obvious to the outsider): they doubly deserve the negative judgment awaiting them under 3d (via 3b and 3e) above

The second phase: the generous contract

The satisfaction of God’s justice

5a.       God redirects, generously, the punishment that people deserve to Christ [who dies).

5b.       Christ, being sinless and divine, can offer limitless satisfaction through dying.)

5c.       God redirects, generously, the perfect righteousness of Christ to sinners as well, who are now viewed as if it were theirs.

(See 5b again. Christ, being sinless, supplies perfect righteousness.)

The appropriation of salvation

6a.       God, again generously, stipulates a manageable criterion (in view of 4a) for accessing or appropriating these redirections, namely, ‘faith’

6b.       People having ‘faith’, and thereby accessing 5a (and perhaps 5c, if that is thought necessary), thereby technically fulfill the criteria of requisite punishment and perfect righteousness, and will receive a positive evaluation (via 1g) on the day of judgment (3a, b, and e), proceeding to the state of ‘heaven’ or blessed eternal life (3c).

Browse Our Archives