Guest Blog: A Look at Douglas Campbell by Sam Bostock

As part of our guest blogging initiative James Clarke & Co is pleased to bring you this insightful post by Sam Bostock who is currently studying a Bachelor of Divinity degree at Union Theological College, Queen’s University, Belfast.

Douglas Campbell is one of the most important and interesting of recent writers on the Apostle Paul. He is a prominent, if somewhat isolated, member of what is called the ‘apocalyptic’ school of Pauline interpretation. In this post we will briefly introduce Campbell’s work to new readers.

At the centre of Campbell’s ouvre is the 1,200 page tome The Deliverance of God: An apocalyptic rereading of justification in Paul (Eerdmans, 2009). Supporters have claimed that it is “potentially the most high-impact work on Paul since E.P. Sanders“, whose 1977 work Paul and Palestinian Judaism (Fortress Press, 1977) can be fairly said to have launched the New Perspective on Paul movement that has dominated the field of Pauline scholarship since.

Others are less impressed: in a critical review Barry Matlock asserted that Campbell has “zeal for Paul but not according to knowledge” while N.T. Wright recently called Deliverance a “remarkable book”, and then devoted almost 40 pages to critiquing it.

When one begins to look more closely at Campbell’s proposals it seems odd that his work would generate so much debate. Although Deliverance covers an enormous amount of ground, at its heart is an idiosyncratic reading of Rom 1:18-3:20. Campbell suggests that large sections of this text, notably 1:18-32, do not reflect Paul’s own theology at all. Rather, they are part of a ‘Socratic’ dialogue with a Judaizing false teacher, in which Paul reduces the Teacher’s ‘gospel’ to absurdity by parody and by pointing out the inconsistencies in his argument.

Campbell advances this reading against what he suggests is the dominant historical reading of Romans 1:18-3:20 (which he calls ‘Justification Theory’). In Justification Theory, 1:18-3:20 develops a kind of rational argument in which Paul convicts every human being that they have “sinned and fallen short of the glory of God”, as a preparation for hearing the gospel, which Paul explains in 3:21 on. Without this traditional reading of Romans 1-3, Campbell thinks, no-one would think that Paul’s preaching of the gospel was anything like this.

So why does this matter? Campbell sees two massive problems with Justification Theory. Together, they threaten to wreck our understanding of God and the gospel. The first problem is that Justification Theory suggests Paul argued “forwards” – moving from general principles about humanity that everyone knows to specific conclusions about sin and the need for the gospel. The problem with that, Campbell says, is that in other places, e.g. Romans 5, Paul argues “backwards” – he starts with the unique event of Christ’s coming at the end of the ages, and rethinks everything in light of this apocalyptic event. The traditional reading of Romans 1-3 not only makes Paul look inconsistent, but worse, it allows normal human reasoning to make the incarnation seem like the result of logical argument. Surely, Campbell asks, the revelation of God in Christ is bigger than that?

The second problem with Justification Theory is that it presents salvation “in terms of two contracts, the first one universally failing and the second one appearing more generous”. God gives humanity a hard task initially, and when we (inevitably) fail, he sends Christ so that we need only believe in him to have eternal life. The problem Campbell sees here is that this outline of the gospel presents God as fundamentally contractual; a God of rules rather than a God of self-giving love. Read Romans 1-3 not as a way to be convicted by sin before hearing the gospel, and instead as a demolition of a false gospel, before the real gospel is presented in Romans 5-8, and we see a God not of contracts, but of sheer grace set forth in Christ: “God, who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all…”

Anyone familiar with the theology of Karl Barth or the Torrance brothers will be recognising some of the themes here, and that is no coincidence. Campbell’s is a highly theological reading of Paul, influenced at root by reading two essays by J.B. Torrance. This, along with his detailed description of Justification Theory, makes his work difficult to digest: Campbell’s proposals are so big that they touch on a wide variety of areas and disciplines: doctrine (of revelation and salvation), theological history (early, Reformation and modern) and highly technical exegesis are all rolled into one in Campbell’s massive work.

Anyone wanting to begin to think about Campbell’s work would do well to take a look at a volume of essays published by James Clarke & Co. Bringing together papers from two conferences devoted to discussing Campbell’s work, they feature original (and short!) essays from Campbell himself, along with responses from scholars in a range of disciplines, with the two seminal essays by J.B. Torrance reprinted in an appendix.

Few readers will find themselves agreeing fully with Campbell’s proposals, but I suspect most will find themselves grateful for being forced to think more carefully about how they read the great apostle of grace.

Sam Bostock is currently undertaking a Bachelor of Divinity degree at Union Theological College, Queen’s University, Belfast and was studying Douglas Campbell for a paper.

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If you would like to read more on Douglas Campbell’s work in Pauline studies then you may be interested in Beyond Old and New Perspectives on Paul: Reflections on the Work of Douglas Campbell edited by Chris Tilling. Click through to find out more or to buy the book.

Let us know your thoughts in the comments below and if you would like to get involved in writing a guest blog post for either our James Clarke & Co or The Lutterworth Press blogs we would be delighted to hear from you!

Please send your name, degree title and university to sales@lutterworth.com, along with the topic that you wish to cover.

www.jamesclarke.co.uk

Guest Blog: Timothy Carson’s Review of ‘Vital Truth: Convictions of the Christian Community’

Vital Truth Convictions of the Christian Community by Nigel G. Wright
Review by Rev. Dr. Timothy Carson

Here is the work of a pastor and scholar who knows that the two sides of the same coin belong together; the pastoral touch reaches to practicing Christian souls and the teacher of the faith serves up a theological meal worth consuming. In fact, the combination of these ingredients makes the entirety stronger. Let us be clear: Not everyone can write with such sensitivity and gravitas at the same time. And that is because they lack either one or the other side of the formula. Dr. Wright has both.

What is this? On the one hand it is by organizational form a systematic theology. But it is not a systematic written for the sake of other scholars or students of theology. It is a systematic written for the Christian community. It is written to those who are already Christian and have perhaps ridden their pew for a very long time. It is written for the sake of those who have practiced faith but want to seek more understanding, definition and clarity. Neither a magisterial systematic nor a simple summary, its length and format is somewhere in-between and is similar to other “primers” of the faith that have been written throughout the centuries. Every generation picks up the task of distilling the Christian story into to its palpable essentials. This is another run at that same project and the goal of Vital Truth. It is a Didache for today.

Starting places often indicate one’s theological position and that is true for Vital Truth.  The first word of the book is about the resurrection faith. In fact, the kerygma frames the totality, beginning and end. The fundamental Christian proclamation is the jumping off place, much as it was for the early Christian evangelists. And from there further exploration is made into Creation, Christ, Trinity, Church and other traditional Christian doctrines.

Because Wright does theology in a confessional way – presenting, explaining and relating traditional themes and sources of authority – the book functions most closely as an apologetic, presenting a defense of the Christian story in logical and methodical ways. Most often he defends the doctrines by explaining their sensibility. Abundant with scripture and historic references Wright stands in the tradition of a Luke Timothy Johnson or N.T. Wright as he presents the plain sense of the story without reinterpreting by means of other philosophical categories.

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Vital Truth: Convictions of a Christian Community by Nigel G. Wright is available here.

I found his defense of the particularity of the Christian message – the revelation of Christ, particular eschatological claims, our ultimate destiny – similar to what Brian McLaren has called “generous orthodoxy.” It is a Christian position that is clear about its particular story without the arrogance of defining the limits of God’s activity in the world. We make claims and affirmations about where God is at work without defining the many places God is not at work, thus condemning all non-Christians. For example, Wright makes sure to steer clear of a simple pantheism when discussing the God of creation; God has a creation but is not the creation. But that does not negate the understanding held by so many other Christians and world religions that God is interwoven in the fabric of the cosmos. God may both have and be in the created order, energy manifesting in matter. Not monism but closer to panentheism. So his orthodoxy is clear but open and generous. Certain things are left where they belong, in the land of our unknown and God’s known.

There is nothing uncertain or unclear about this propositional language that includes careful nuance. As clearly as I understand these well-presented positions I leave this fine book concerned, maybe even anxious. This is a book for believers and believers in the world of classical theism. As in neo-orthodoxy the message is unwavering regardless of the vagaries of the culture that surround us. It is not especially concerned with correlation to other pathways of wisdom or new revelations of truth from other sources.

What haunts me, really haunts me, is that many – the majority who are not in our churches – will not give this elucidation of the faith a chance because it is not connected in compelling ways to some of the very things either dismissed or omitted: the new physics and universal, mythical and symbolic substrate that give the Christian story its power. The assumption is that the Gospel cannot be confined by anything as relative or culturally determined as these. But it is exactly those touch stones in the culture that will make the rest of the story approachable, interesting and even digestible by the 21st century person in the West. If we insist on an exclusively historical or literal rendering of the meaning of some of the Christian doctrines we will lose enormous numbers of those who might otherwise be drawn to God. This will not be because some saw the truth and others did not. There are other reasons.

Christian apologists have, throughout the centuries, found ways to create correlations between the vital truth of the Christian story and the vital truth generally revealed in the world. My great fear in this urgent moment is if we do not take up that challenge the wisdom and peace that we treasure will be lost on the many and held only by a few. And that will not be the result of divine election. That will be the result of us not taking up the hard work of cultural translation and bridge building.

There is a reason that the early Christian missionaries, those before the colonial period, went and lived with those whom they served. They had to become fluent in the language, culture, poetry and story of those with whom they shared the Christian story. We will have to do the same. If we do not there will be no one left to consider such faithful writing as this.

Rev. Timothy Carson, D.Min, Senior Pastor of Broadway Christian Church
Columbia, Missouri, USA

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Author of Transforming Worship, Your Calling as a Christian, The Square Root of God, Six Doors to the Seventh Dimension and Liminal Reality and Transformational Power. Click here to read his most recent author Q&A.

Recent praise for Vital Truth:

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“The experience of a creative theologian, teacher, and pastor are clearly on view in this theologically rich account of the core convictions of the Christian community. Profoundly and imaginatively written, yet eminently accessible, this volume will be a wonderful resource for those who wish to go deeper in their understanding of core Christian doctrines.”
Graham Watts, Tutor, Christian Doctrine and Ethics, Spurgeon’s College, London

“Nigel has a real gift for exploring profound theological truth in a very readable way. I have found that his books inspire, challenge, and develop my thinking and practice as a Christian leader, and so I am delighted to commend this latest book to you.”
Lynn Green, General Secretary, Baptist Union of Great Britain

“In a day when many Christians have a hazy grasp of their faith, Nigel Wright’s Vital Truth comes as a timely corrective. Written with commendable clarity, it succinctly and accessibly explores the core convictions of Christianity. It is persuasive, winsome, and readable. Chapters are short enough to be savoured and provide excellent material for small group study. Definitely a book to get hold of.”
Brian Harris, Principal, Vose Seminary, Perth, Australia

Vital Truth: Convictions of the Christian Community is available for purchase here now.

For more information see our website: www.lutterworth.com

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The London School of Theology to host book launch for Tim Carter’s ‘The Forgiveness of Sins’

James Clarke & C0 are delighted to announce that on Wednesday 9th November, the London School of Theology will open its doors to The Forgiveness of Sins by Tim Carter, one of the most highly anticipated books this year.

The launch will feature talks from author Tim Carter, alongside Dr. Graham Twelftree of The London School of Theology, William Atkinson Senior Lecturer at the London School of Theology and Adrian Brink, Managing Director of James Clarke & Co./ The Lutterworth Press.

If you are interested in attending the launch of Dr Carter’s book, talks and signings, complete with tea and cakes at LST, please confirm your attendance before 9th November to ruwani@lst.ac.uk.

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In The Forgiveness of Sins, Tim Carter examines the significance of forgiveness in a New Testament context, delving deep into second-century Christian literature on sin and the role of the early church in mitigating it. This crucial spiritual issue is at the core of what it means to be Christian, and Carter’s thorough and erudite examination of this theme is a necessity for any professional or amateur scholar of the early church.

His far-reaching analysis begins with St Luke, who is often accused of weakness on the subject of atonement, but who in fact uses the phrase “forgiveness of sins” more frequently than any other New Testament author. Carter explores patristic writers both heterodox and orthodox, such as Marcion, Justin Martyr and Origen. He also deepens our understanding of Second Temple Judaism and the theological context in which Christian ideas about atonement developed. Useful to both the academic and the pastoral theologian, The Forgiveness of Sins is a painstaking, clear-eyed exploration of what forgiveness meant not only to early Christians such as Tertullian, Irenaeus and Luke, but to Jesus himself, and what it means to Christians today.

Some recent praise for the book includes:

“This is an important book. After all, it deals with a matter that, for any Christian, is of eternal significance. And it does so with great care: it is well researched and persuasively argued. The end product is rich in detail and well worth reading. I commend it.”
William Atkinson, Senior Lecturer, London School of Theology

“This book is a remarkable achievement. Tim Carter has taken a fresh look at a vital issue at the heart of the Christian faith. His work is both thoroughly scholarly, showing great command of the source material, and fully accessible. The key matters are all addressed by drawing on the Hebrew Bible, other Jewish material, the New Testament and the writings of the early church, making appropriate use of some helpful innovative methods. The result is a thorough account of a significant doctrine, one which models an approach to thinking biblically about an important theological and pastoral question; it will be read with great profit by anyone who wants to understand what is meant by the forgiveness of sins and to reflect in greater depth on its implications.”
Stephen Finamore, Principal of Bristol Baptist College

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For more information about the author, extracts and reviews, click through here!

#NationalMapReadingWeek !

As 17-23rd October marks National Map Reading Week, here at James Clarke & Co. / The Lutterworth Press, we are taking the opportunity to brush up our navigation skills!

In association with Ordnance Survey, National Map Reading Week develops the opportunity for the next generation of map readers to understand how a flat piece of paper can show the real world. Map reading also improves spatial awareness in children, and is a crucial life skill for adults.

At James Clarke & Co, we have mapped both the land and the skies in A Guide to Glastonbury’s Temple of the Stars by K.E. Maltwood an account of the author’s discovery of prehistoric man-made ground patterns in the Glastonbury area and their zodiacal significance.

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A Guide to Glastonbury’s Temple of the Stars by K.E Maltwood. Click through here for more details!

In recent years detailed archaeological study has shown that in parts of the world prehistoric man had a far deeper understanding of astronomy than traditional historians were willing to accept.

Glastonbury has always been at the heart of legends of chivalry and sanctity dating back for beyond written records, and has long excited the interest of scholars and seers. Yet it was not until the advent of aerial photography that its most dramatic archaeological secrets were revealed.

From studying these photographs and comparing them with detailed maps and the evidence of myth, Katherine Maltwood investigates these exciting discoveries and their meanings.

In this book, she reveals her discovery of a vast and complex pattern of figures in the contours and landmarks of the area. They form, in fact, a huge land chart of the Zodiac.

For more on Maltwood’s Temple of the Stars, author biography, extracts & other Lutterworthy reads, click here!

 

Author Q&A: An Interview with Ambrose Mong

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1. As your new book will not be your first book with us, please could you detail your previous work and inspirations from 2015.

My first book, published by James Clarke & Co., Purification of Memory, is an exploration, from a Catholic and ecumenical perspective, of the theological thoughts of eight distinguished Orthodox theologians. It attempts to demonstrate that, in spite of the mistrust and conflict between the Orthodox and the Roman Catholic Churches, they actually share a common heritage, which can be a basis for reunification. This work provides an insightful study of eight Orthodox theological movers-and-shakers and compares and contrasts them with their Roman Catholic counterparts. Interestingly, I find that some Catholic theologians are closer to the Orthodox theologians than to their own confessional colleagues and vice versa.

The second book, Accommodation and Acceptance, investigates the works of some prominent Christian missionaries and thinkers regarding non-Christian religions. By their innovations, these pioneers in interfaith relations have blazed new paths for better understanding between people of diverse beliefs in a world torn by conflicts and violence.

My aim in writing this volume is to promote interreligious dialogue and greater understanding among various religions. Through their innovation and creativity, the pioneers in inter-religious relations discussed in this work have blazed new paths for better understanding between people of diverse beliefs. As religion has played an important role in politics and international relations, dialogue between different religions has become urgent in the face of globalization and divisiveness and confrontation between the East and the West.

2. Likewise, how have writing these books led you to your forthcoming title, Guns and Gospel: Imperialism and Evangelicalism in China?

 The first book is on Orthodox theology and the second on Roman Catholic thought.

I wanted to be ecumenical in my theological outlook and thus, I decided to focus on Protestant missionaries in China during the Qing dynasty (19th century). China is now playing a prominent role in global politics and economics. It is important to understand why the Communist government in China is wary of religious influence from outside and why it seeks to control the churches that are flourishing in spite of years of persecutions.

Guns and Gospel attempts to explain why in spite of so much toil and sacrifices undertaken by foreign missionaries in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, Christianity is still a minority faith in China. The book aims at a critical examination of missionary activities taking place under the auspices of gunboat diplomacy and unequal treaties, which eventually increased hostilities of the natives towards Christianity. “One more Christian, one less Chinese,” has long been a popular cliché in China.

Although it failed to win many adherents, in terms of modernization of China, Christian influence was significant. Christian missionaries addressed the issues of education, health care, women’s rights and agriculture. Critical of polygamy, infanticide and foot binding, they fought for the rights of women for equal opportunities. Christian missionaries anticipated the Communist effort in adapting western science and knowledge to reform Chinese society.

3. What does your writing typical process consist of?

I read as much as possible regarding the topic, from journal articles, books, newspapers, and magazines. Then I start summarising key ideas from relevant texts and attempt some kind of analysis by way of comparison or critique. It is a strange process how I start putting the various ideas and views together to construct coherent arguments. Physical exercises like swimming and jogging are very useful for me to have a clear mind to craft my chapter.

Reading as much and as wide as possible on a topic is necessary to provide a good and comprehensive argument. I normally write a chapter that can stand on its own – that it can be published in an abridged version as an article. Thus when I write a chapter I look upon it as an extended essay. My focus is on one chapter at a time. In many ways, writing a book is like running a marathon. I try not to look at the entire distance, but concentrate on running from one point to another, one kilometre at a time.

4. In layman’s terms, what are the main ideas that Guns and Gospel explores?

Going beyond generalizations, the issue I want to raise here is to what extent the missionaries had become lackeys of imperialism. In this work I propose to study individual missionaries in order to examine their positions regarding western military aggression, the opium trade, and the unequal treaties. It is a critical review of Christian missions against the backdrop of the Opium Wars (1839 – 1860), Treaty of Nanking (1842), Gunboat Diplomacy, Taiping Rebellion (1850 – 1864) and Boxer Rebellion (1899 – 1901).

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Accommodation and Acceptance: An Exploration in Interfaith Relations by Ambrose Mong

5. Which writers or academics do you think have had the greatest impact on you and why?

Professor Peter C. Phan, who holds the Ignacio Ellacuría Chair of Catholic Social Thought, Georgetown University. I am inspired by his dedication in exploring ways to make Christianity relevant to modern times. He is very knowledgeable not just in Catholic theology, but in Orthodox and Protestant thoughts as well. In spite of his great achievements as a theologian, he remains a very humble and down-to-earth person.

Professor Lai Pan-Chiu, a Lutheran pastor, from The Chinese University of Hong Kong. He was the supervisor and mentor for my doctoral dissertation. Besides being a good scholar, Prof Lai is a very conscientious teacher. He looks after his students very well, directs their thesis with great dedication and care. After graduation, he tries to find suitable teaching and research positions for them. He is a great influence on my theological outlook. Knowing Professor P.C. Lai has been one of the great blessings in my life.

6. Who do you think the book will appeal most to?

The general public, those who are interested in history, East-West relations, post-colonial and religious studies. This can include undergraduates, theology students, seminarians, priests, religious and lay people, who are interested in broadening their understanding of Christianity as a minority religion in Asia, especially in China.

7. What are the most obscure notions the book explores?

This work examines the precarious and ambivalent relationship between the missionaries and the British colonial government that controlled the territories in which they attempted to propagate the faith.

8. Who are your favourite authors to read?

William Shakespeare, James Joyce, W.B. Yeats, John Keats, George Eliot, and Leo Tolstoy.

9. From your author questionnaire, you detail being educated all around the world; how do you think this has influenced your writing?

 My early years in India have deeply influenced my writings. I realize the importance of culture, religious belief or unbelief, and language that conditions our perception of reality and life in general. I am also more conscious of the gap between the rich and the poor, and thus in my writings, I attempt to give voice to the voiceless, the marginalized and downtrodden. I also attempt to provide philosophical and historical backgrounds in my theological reflections. I seek to be open-minded and to understand the thoughts of “others.” At the moment, my research is on liberation theology, migration, religion and the diaspora.

 10. Alongside having taking a diverse interest in the world of academia, we would be delighted to learn about any additional projects or hobbies!

I work as an assistant parish priest in the Church of St Theresa, Kowloon. It is one of the oldest churches in Hong Kong. This gives me chance to interact with people from all walks of life. I swim and cycle regularly and enjoy hikes along many of the spectacular trails here. Like many people in Hong Kong, I enjoy dining out. We take eating very seriously here!

Any additional information you would like our readers to know?

I am very grateful to the editors and the staff in the sales and marketing department at James Clarke & Co. for their great help and support. It is a blessing for an author to have such friendly, competent, and dedicated staff behind him.

Ambrose Mong was born in Singapore and earned degrees in English from the Universities of Calgary and British Columbia. He went on to enter the Dominican Novitiate in Seville and completed his philosophical and theological studies at the University of St Thomas Aquinas in Rome. Ordained as a priest in Hong Kong in 2008, he continued to study at The Chinese University of Hong Kong, completing his M.Phil. and Ph.D. in Religious Studies.

At present he is  assistant parish priest at St Theresa’s Church, Kowloon, HK, and teaching part-time at  The Caritas Institute of Higher Education and at The Chinese University of Hong Kong.

He is the author of Dialogue Derailed and Purification of Memory: A Study of Modern Orthodox Theologians from a Catholic Perspective (2015, also available from James Clarke & Co).

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Purification of Memory: A Study of Orthodox Theologians from a Catholic Perspective by Ambrose Mong

Guns and Gospel: Imperialism and Evangelicalism in China is due for publication 29th November, 2016. For more on Ambrose Mong’s previous titles, extracts and reviews, click to see our author page here.