Pauline Theology: New Perspective on Paul

One of my New Testament doctoral seminars was on Pauline literature and the hot topic of the "New Perspective on Paul." We had to read numerous books on the subject for the work of NT Wright and the discussion on the topic are reaching local churches. The Orthodox Presbyterian Church told their pastors that if they supported The New Perspective, they had to report to the leaders for the NPP views are against their doctrinal beliefs.

SO... Whats the big debate about? And should we consider separating those who are NPP adherents from Protestantism? 

The thrust of the controversy is the view on Paul's phrases "works" and "works of the law." Where I read Galatians 2 and understand Paul to rail against works based salvation, scholars, like Sanders and Dunn, reject the view. Dunn calls "works" "badges" or "boundary markers" of the covenant community, like circumcision. Thus the problem of the debate, "Paul didn't teach that works weren't a part of salvation, only that certain works weren't."

Sanders and Wright conclude that readers (Old Paul-perspective) misjudge first-century Judaism if they believe it was a works-based religion, void of the component of grace.  For the NPP scholars, Paul was articulating a theology compatible with first century Judaism. His addition was to add grace into the mix of what they termed to be covenantal realism. Thus in Galatians one should conclude that Paul, then, was not arguing against works in general as a component to salvation; he was emphasizing doing away with the specific works that disunited Jews and Gentiles.

The thrust of the controversy calls into question the pillar doctrine of the Protestant Reformation (Sola Fide). (NPP) While the New Perspective holds to the forgiveness of sin through the blood of Christ, complimented by certain works. (OPP) The Old Perspective rejects the idea that human effort of any kind is necessary for forgiveness. It should also be noted that The Old Perspective doesn't deny the importance of good works, but it argues that they are an effect of salvation, not the means of it.

Now to the Divide... The Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Church have largely been supportive of The New Perspective because it aligns closely with their understanding of Paul.
As noted earlier some Protestants have drawn a line and excommunicated adherents from their denomination. Other Protestants are now scratching their heads and wondering if Protestant theology from the Reformation is correct.
SOOOO.... If you buy into NPP, then in my opinion you've laid aside the Sola Fide of the Reformation. Such an abandonment moves you into the Catholic theological world. Remember, Catholic salvation is sacramental, transformational, communal, and eschatological. Sound good? You've just assented to the Catholic Council of Trent.

I wonder if Wright, Dunn, Sanders, et al. have found themselves to be on the other side of the proverbial Wittenburg's church door.

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