D.A. Carson’s Lectures on the New Perspective on Paul

It is no longer chic to be a scholar who advocates the New Perspective on Paul (NPP).  Its advocates have backtracked somewhat from its audacious claims that the Reformation has misread Paul. Furthermore, the New Testament guild has since moved on to new fashions like studies on social identity, and the gospel and empire. Indeed, … Continue reading “D.A. Carson’s Lectures on the New Perspective on Paul”

It is no longer chic to be a scholar who advocates the New Perspective on Paul (NPP).  Its advocates have backtracked somewhat from its audacious claims that the Reformation has misread Paul. Furthermore, the New Testament guild has since moved on to new fashions like studies on social identity, and the gospel and empire. Indeed, the latest flavor in town is on the ‘Apocalyptic Paul’.

On the other hand, that the NPP is no longer chic does not mean that it is no longer interesting or relevant. After all, the NPP touches on crucial methodological issues like early Judaism and historical hermeneutics, and central elements of salvation concerning covenant and justification. Continue reading “D.A. Carson’s Lectures on the New Perspective on Paul”

Debating Justification with N.T. Wright and New Perspective on Paul. Part 2

Related Post: Debating Justification with N.T. Wright and New Perspective on Paul. Part 1 Second Thoughts on New Perspective on Paul. Part 1 Second Thoughts on New Perspective on Paul. Part 2 Engaging NPP with Pastoral Concerns and Confessions of Faith Someone suggests that we should ignore controversial scholarship represented by N.T. Wright and NPP … Continue reading “Debating Justification with N.T. Wright and New Perspective on Paul. Part 2”

Related Post: Debating Justification with N.T. Wright and New Perspective on Paul. Part 1

Second Thoughts on New Perspective on Paul. Part 1
Second Thoughts on New Perspective on Paul. Part 2

Engaging NPP with Pastoral Concerns and Confessions of Faith
Someone suggests that we should ignore controversial scholarship represented by N.T. Wright and NPP if deprives us of our child-like faith. We should instead focus on more productive matters like evangelism. But, surely wrong teachings must be corrected as they distort our understanding of faith and invariably give rise to wrong practices. For example, NPP claims that Paul could not be addressing legalist perfectionism since first century Judaism, described as ‘covenantal nomism’ was not a legalistic religion. If NPP is correct, it will be necessary to discard the Reformation understanding of justification as God’s answer to the futility of seeking righteousness through works of the law.

Evangelicals cannot simply retreat into a safe cocoon of faith that is indifferent (and possible afraid of) to genuine scholarship. Evangelicals may not simply appeal to authority to settle theological controversies as final authority rests on Scripture alone. This being the case, evangelicals must work hard to master the primary sources, offer constructive criticism of NPP scholars, and publish robust exegesis to demonstrate why the evangelical doctrine of justification provides a more coherent reading of Scripture than NPP. Continue reading “Debating Justification with N.T. Wright and New Perspective on Paul. Part 2”

Debating Justification with N.T. Wright and New Perspective on Paul. Part 1

For just as through one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so also through one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous (Romans 5:19) Definition: Justification may be defined as that legal act of God by which he declares the sinner righteous on the basis of the perfect righteousness of Jesus Christ. Related … Continue reading “Debating Justification with N.T. Wright and New Perspective on Paul. Part 1”

For just as through one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so also through one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous (Romans 5:19)

Definition: Justification may be defined as that legal act of God by which he declares the sinner righteous on the basis of the perfect righteousness of Jesus Christ.

Related Post: Debating Justification with N.T. Wright and New Perspective on Paul. Part 2

Second Thoughts on New Perspective on Paul. Part 1
Second Thoughts on New Perspective on Paul. Part 2

I. Righting What is Wrong in Wright’s Teaching of Justification

Someone emailed to KrisisPraxis a question:
“Do you have a view of N.T. Wright’s view? My own take is that it is also not correct to limit our view of Paul’s writings to only through the eyes of Luther or Reformation theology – why should we be filtered or limited or “Lutherised” in our view of the Gospel and only understand Paul the way Luther and the reformers understood Paul? As much as I respect these great spiritual giants, they need not and should not have the last say.  We should be allowed and encouraged to go back and find new jewels from Paul’s own words and discover new truths that can give us even more answers for today’s questions.

First, let me stress that I do not critique the New Perspective on Paul (NPP) because I slavishly follow the Reformers. In actuality, my understanding of Paul is based on careful exegesis of Scripture /1/ which takes into account the shifting positions of N.T. Wright and James Dunn in the course of the debate on NPP. I shall presently focus on the Wright’s controversial view of justification. Continue reading “Debating Justification with N.T. Wright and New Perspective on Paul. Part 1”

The “New Perspective on Paul” Misconstrues Paul: Richard N. Longenecker’s New Greek Commentary on Romans

NPP Reading No.2 Related posts: Debating Justification with N.T. Wright and New Perspective on Paul. Part 1/2 Second Thoughts on the “New Perspective on Paul”. Part 1/2 Richard N. Longenecker’s just published The Epistle to the Romans: A Commentary on the Greek Text in the New International Greek Testament Commentary Series (NIGTC) is the crowning … Continue reading “The “New Perspective on Paul” Misconstrues Paul: Richard N. Longenecker’s New Greek Commentary on Romans”

NPP Reading No.2

Related posts:

Debating Justification with N.T. Wright and New Perspective on Paul. Part 1/2
Second Thoughts on the “New Perspective on Paul”. Part 1/2

Richard N. Longenecker’s just published The Epistle to the Romans: A Commentary on the Greek Text in the New International Greek Testament Commentary Series (NIGTC) is the crowning achievement of the lifelong scholarship of an expert in Paul and Early Judaism. It is presently THE new standard Greek Commentary on Romans. Longenecker’s evaluation of the controversial New Perspective on Paul (NPP) demands careful consideration.
Summary. We must, therefore, conclude that “the new perspective on Paul” – despite its laudatory motivations, some very significant observations, and a fairly wide acceptance of that view today – actually misconstrues Paul’s use of the phrase “works of the law” and somewhat distorts his attitudes toward compatriot Jews and first-century Palestinian Judaism. For in its endeavors to highlight certain positive features within the “nomism” of ancient Judaism, it is somewhat blind to the “legalism” that was also present (as it is, sadly, in every religion, both ancient and modern). And in its attempt to restrict the definition of “works of the law” only to matters regarding prideful nationalism and cultural prejudice and thereby to minimize any connotation of “legalism,” it has run a bit roughshod over Paul’s argument in Rom 2:17-3:20. Continue reading “The “New Perspective on Paul” Misconstrues Paul: Richard N. Longenecker’s New Greek Commentary on Romans”

The Bible Does not Teach Uncritical Submission and Blind Obedience to the State

Related Article: Between Romans 13 and Revelation 13 LINK I. Understanding Romans 13:1-7 in Context. There has been a controversy in the media sparked off by a comment made by the leader of the Christians for Peace and Harmony Malaysia (CPHM) who urged Christians “to submit to and obey the government and those God had … Continue reading “The Bible Does not Teach Uncritical Submission and Blind Obedience to the State”

Related Article: Between Romans 13 and Revelation 13 LINK

I. Understanding Romans 13:1-7 in Context.
There has been a controversy in the media sparked off by a comment made by the leader of the Christians for Peace and Harmony Malaysia (CPHM) who urged Christians “to submit to and obey the government and those God had put in authority.” The leader added, “So don’t look at the person, as long as he is in position, the Scripture teaches us to honour and respect authority.”

Detractors protest that the comment is inappropriate as it takes a scriptural text out of context, to be used as a pretext for what is politically partisan. Indeed, many totalitarian states have caused much grief to the church when they sought to exploit this passage to justify their demand for unconditional submission from any Christian citizen who resists abusive authorities. We need therefore to emphasize that Paul’s call for submission is circumscribed by certain presuppositions. Continue reading “The Bible Does not Teach Uncritical Submission and Blind Obedience to the State”

Reading the Bible as God’s Word: The Redemptive Historical Method and Progressive Revelation. Part 2

To read Part 1 of this article – Reading the Bible as God’s Word: The Redemptive Historical Method and Progressive Revelation. Part 1 I. What is the Redemptive Historical Method (RHM)? The Redemptive Historical Method (RHM) is based on three affirmations: 1) RHM is Christo-centric. The RHM begins with the assumption that God’s plan of … Continue reading “Reading the Bible as God’s Word: The Redemptive Historical Method and Progressive Revelation. Part 2”

To read Part 1 of this article – Reading the Bible as God’s Word: The Redemptive Historical Method and Progressive Revelation. Part 1

I. What is the Redemptive Historical Method (RHM)?

The Redemptive Historical Method (RHM) is based on three affirmations:

1) RHM is Christo-centric. The RHM begins with the assumption that God’s plan of salvation for humankind was progressively revealed in mighty acts and prophetic word through various divinely appointed human agents in the history of Israel. RHM affirms the finality of Scripture as “God has in the past revealed long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son [Jesus Christ].” (Heb. 1:1-2)

2) RHM affirms that the Bible has a coherent message, with Christ as its centre and final fulfilment.
Jesus said to the two disciples on the Emmaus road, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself (Luke 24: 25-27).

3) RHM affirms the divine inspiration and sufficiency of Scripture. As Paul writes, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” The Westminster Confession of Faith puts it succinctly, “The whole counsel of God concerning all things necessary for His own glory, man’s salvation, faith and life, is either expressly set down in Scripture, or by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from Scripture.” (1:6)

It should be clear that these affirmations result in a “hermeneutic of affirmation” rather than a “hermeneutic of suspicion” that is prevalent within the dominant paradigm of historical criticism. To read the Bible is not to dissect a lifeless ancient document. It is to approach the Bible humbly with expectation that the Bible as the living Word of God also reads us and speaks to us. Continue reading “Reading the Bible as God’s Word: The Redemptive Historical Method and Progressive Revelation. Part 2”

Reading the Bible as God’s Word: The Redemptive Historical Method and Progressive Revelation. Part 1

This article is dedicated to the seminary student who is troubled by the “methodological atheism” framework of contemporary historical criticism, and is looking for a believing scholarship that is consistent with the Church’s affirmation of the Bible as the Word of God. To read Part 2 of this article – Reading the Bible as God’s … Continue reading “Reading the Bible as God’s Word: The Redemptive Historical Method and Progressive Revelation. Part 1”

This article is dedicated to the seminary student who is troubled by the “methodological atheism” framework of contemporary historical criticism, and is looking for a believing scholarship that is consistent with the Church’s affirmation of the Bible as the Word of God.

To read Part 2 of this article – Reading the Bible as God’s Word: The Redemptive Historical Method and Progressive Revelation. Part 2

I. The Challenge of “Methodological Atheism” and the Historical-Critical Method

Seminary studies is vital for equipping aspiring pastors with skills in biblical interpretation. However, seminary studies may prove to be hazardous for some students when they are introduced to critical scholarship which treats the Bible just like any other Ancient Near Eastern texts. Students are told that the origins of the Bible is obscure because of its antiquity and because the authors of the biblical texts in truth are anonymous. The historical reliability of the Bible is cast in doubt as critical historians (the biblical minimalists) privilege silent excavated artifacts over informative historical texts and declare that the Bible contains more myths than history. Finally, critical scholars conclude that alleged cultural and religious commonalities between biblical stories and ancient mythological texts render questionable, the traditional Christian belief that the Bible is unique because of its divine origins. Students who are overwhelmed by these critical ideas soon lose their passion for preaching and pastoral ministry.

Critical scholarship is alluring because of its claim to be a rational inquiry that continuously advances the frontiers of religious knowledge, in contrast to conservative scholarship that is constrained by dogmatic authority. To be sure, this Enlightenment inspired narrative has been contested by recent scholarship. However, rather than outlining an alternative historiography which can be both intellectually robust and consistent with the biblical worldview, this article shall focus on how critical scholarship based on “methodological atheism” challenges the faith of students. Continue reading “Reading the Bible as God’s Word: The Redemptive Historical Method and Progressive Revelation. Part 1”

Evangelical Faith and the Challenge of Historical Criticism Part 1

The Promise and Perils of Historical Critical Method in Biblical Studies How is it that access to modern tools of learning which evidently has help many Christians deepen their understanding of the Bible results in some losing their confidence in its historical reliability? It seems we have a classic case of the paradox of knowledge … Continue reading “Evangelical Faith and the Challenge of Historical Criticism Part 1”

The Promise and Perils of Historical Critical Method in Biblical Studies

How is it that access to modern tools of learning which evidently has help many Christians deepen their understanding of the Bible results in some losing their confidence in its historical reliability? It seems we have a classic case of the paradox of knowledge of good and evil which brings blessings and curses in a fallen world. Wonder drugs work miraculous cure but if taken excessively, would poison the body. Atomic energy generates massive electric power but it can also be used for weapons of mass destruction. Historical criticism which enhances our understanding of ancient scripture can also destroy faith – if it is applied without regard for the object of its investigation, the Bible with its self-attested divine authority. In this article I shall examine the process, promise and perils of the historical critical method for the study of the Bible.

Christians today can access many tools of modern knowledge to study Bible. Obscure words are clarified using Greek and Hebrew lexicons, strange ancient customs are explained by Bible encyclopedia and puzzling passages are illuminated in Bible commentaries. Understanding of the Bible becomes more concrete with new knowledge gleaned from recent archaeological excavations.

Leaders in the Malaysian evangelical churches in Malaysia welcome these tools as they will spur vigor and enthusiasm in systematic study of the Bible. After all, the evangelical churches have traditionally prided themselves as a Bible-centred movement. However, there is concern that some scholars have cast doubts on the evangelical doctrine of verbal plenary inspiration and infallibility of the Scripture as they deem the doctrine to be inconsistent with modern scientific study of the Bible that is promoted vigorously in the Western liberal academia. Continue reading “Evangelical Faith and the Challenge of Historical Criticism Part 1”

Second Thoughts on the “New Perspective on Paul”. Part 2/2

To read: Second Thoughts on the “New Perspective on Paul” Part 1/2 LINK NPP Reading No.1 Was Paul a Covenantal Nomist? An Evaluation of Sanders’s “Covenantal Nomism” by Peter O’Brien Sanders found a common pattern in his treatment of Palestinian Judaism which he labeled “covenantal nomism.” He summarized it as follows: The “pattern” or structure” … Continue reading “Second Thoughts on the “New Perspective on Paul”. Part 2/2″

To read: Second Thoughts on the “New Perspective on Paul” Part 1/2 LINK

NPP Reading No.1

Was Paul a Covenantal Nomist?

An Evaluation of Sanders’s “Covenantal Nomism” by Peter O’Brien

Sanders found a common pattern in his treatment of Palestinian Judaism which he labeled “covenantal nomism.” He summarized it as follows:

The “pattern” or structure” of covenantal nomism is this: (1) God has chosen Israel and (2) given the  law. The law implies both (3) God’s promise to maintain the election and (4) the requirement to obey. (5) God rewards obedience and punishes transgression. (6) The law provides for means of atonement, and atonement results in (7) maintenance or re-establishment of the covenantal relationship. (8) All those who are maintained in the covenant by obedience, atonement and God’s mercy belong to the group which will be saved. An important interpretation of the first and last points is that election and ultimately salvation are considered to be by God’s mercy rather than human achievement.

Continue reading “Second Thoughts on the “New Perspective on Paul”. Part 2/2″

Second Thoughts on the “New Perspective on Paul”. Part 1/2

It is arguable that the most significant, but controversial development in New Testament studies in the last 30 years is the “New Perspective on Paul (NPP)” that is forcefully promoted by articulate scholars like E.P. Sanders, James Dunn and N.T. Wright.   The NPP represents a paradigm shift from the traditional view on the Apostle … Continue reading “Second Thoughts on the “New Perspective on Paul”. Part 1/2″

It is arguable that the most significant, but controversial development in New Testament studies in the last 30 years is the “New Perspective on Paul (NPP)” that is forcefully promoted by articulate scholars like E.P. Sanders, James Dunn and N.T. Wright.

 

The NPP represents a paradigm shift from the traditional view on the Apostle Paul inherited from Reformers like Luther and Calvin, who understood Paul’s epistles to be polemics against the legalism or work-righteousness oriented religion of Judaism of his times (variously described as 2nd Temple, Palestinian or NT Judaism). E.P. Sanders’ landmark book, Paul and Palestinian Judaism (Fortress Press 1977), asserts that in reality Paul was in substantial agreement with Palestinian Judaism on the close relation between grace and work for salvation: “On the point at which many have found the decisive contrast between Paul and Judaism – grace and works – Paul is in agreement with Palestinian Judaism… Salvation is by grace but judgment is according to works’…God saves by grace, but… within the framework established by grace he rewards good deeds and punishes transgression” (p. 543). That is to say, Paul was not disputing with Palestinian Judaism which should more accurately be described as “covenantal nomism” – “the view that one’s place in God’s plan is established on the basis of the covenant and that the covenant requires as the proper response of man his obedience to its commandments, while providing means of atonement for transgression” (75). Continue reading “Second Thoughts on the “New Perspective on Paul”. Part 1/2″