About Providence, Divine Action and the Church

In this blog, Terry J. Wright posts thoughts and shares research on the Christian doctrine of providence. This doctrine testifies to God’s provision for all things through creation’s high priest, the man Christ Jesus. However, the precise meaning and manner of this provision is a perpetually open question, and this blog is a forum for discussion of the many issues relating to providence and the place of the Church within God’s action.

Saturday, 17 December 2011

Encore, Douglas Campbell

The Beyond Old and Perspectives on Paul two-day conference, featuring Douglas Campbell (whose The Deliverance of God sparked the conference), Alan Torrance, Robin Griffith-Jones, Scott Hafemann, Graham Tomlin, David Hilborn and Christ Tilling as main speakers, has finished. Richard Bauckham, Eddie Adams and Jeremy Begbie were in attendance, and Richard Burridge showed himself at the very beginning of the conference. Otherwise, I’m guessing that most of the conference delegates were students or, like myself, interested parties.

Now that I’ve given a flavour of the calibre of the attendees, what shall I say about the conference itself? At the risk of sounding, well, boring, it was a good conference.

The conference was mostly devoted to clarifying issues and raising potential critical objections to Campbell’s Deliverance, which Tilling described as a monstergraph (or possibly a monstrograph – my ears couldn’t pick out the precise term). There were sessions on the theological presuppositions behind Deliverance (Torrance), how well Campbell’s proposals interpret Reformation thought, particularly that of Martin Luther (Tomlin), dikaio- (Campbell and Hafemann) and pistis (Tilling) language, and generally how to move forward on the assumption that Campbell has slapped a huge question mark against both the Old and the New Perspectives on Paul.

The absolute highlight for me was the session between Campbell and Robin Griffith-Jones on Romans 1–3, and particularly the employment of speech-in-character, by which Campbell argues that Paul is entering into Socratic dialogue with an opponent unsettling Roman Christians (the Teacher). Campbell made his case; a very entertainingly dramatic Griffith-Jones argued that Campbell’s case wasn’t as conclusive as he supposed; and then Campbell performed his interpretation of Romans 1–3, adopting different voices and mannerisms for both Paul and the Teacher. When Romans 1–3 is performed or orated in this way, it becomes clear that despite the scepticism surrounding Campbell’s proposals at this point, the case is far stronger, perhaps, than assumed.

This was the first time I’d heard Campbell present. I found him to be a very engaging speaker – when he spoke fully in the microphone! He shared some of his experiences in prison ministry, in which his take on dikaio- language makes sense to the incarcerated. And the fact that he wasn’t afraid to break out into song, singing one of the verses from Wesley’s And Can It Be ('Long my imprisoned spirit lay…') in an attempt to clarify how Campbell understands Paul’s Gospel, shows, at least to me, that Campbell is extremely passionate about getting the Gospel right, and making sure that that Gospel is proclaimed.

For those who couldn’t attend the conference but wanted to, there’s good news. It is intended that all the papers will be published by Wipf & Stock at some point in the (early) new year. And the entire conference was filmed by two blokes from Grace Communion International. I’m not sure how or when the audio–visual will become available, but I dare say that they’ll appear at some point in the new year, too, probably on the GCI website. (There was also mention of DVDs.)


  1. Great job, Terry. And so glad you could come (even if my brain was trash at the end!)

  2. Very interested in Doug Campbell's performance of Romans 1-3. One day, I hope to find time to explore performance criticism more fully.


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