RE: What is the ‘new perspective on Paul’?

I received a very interesting response on facebook to my post on the New Perspective on Paul: https://emmausattwilight.wordpress.com/2012/04/14/what-is-the-new-perspective-on-paul/

I thought I would record it here:

Please note, this is copied from facebook, so has not been proof read.

Anon: Just regarding what you say about Romans 3 – ‘He argues that the definition of justification/righteousness is God’s ‘covenantal faithfulness’ declaring one righteous on the basis of works empowered by the Holy Spirit.’ I dont think thats his interpretation of Romans 3 God isnt declaring us righteous on the basis of works.. Gods covenant faithfulness are his actions in faithfulness towards Israel (in this case by bringing the Messiah), so if we read that into much of chapter 3 ‘saving faithfulness’ of God .. and instead of faith ‘in’ Jesus’ its rendered the faithfulness of Jesus.. and then verse 28 we maintain a man is declared a member of Gods covenant people (im translating connotation of the word here rather than literal Greek).. we are justified by the faithfulness of the Messiah to Gods saving plan through his covenant to Israel (which benefits Gentiles also)..

i think the problem i have with shall we say ‘reformed’ views like Pipers (a man who i have great admiration for) is that it very much treats the Bible as a kind of theological abstraction (maybe like the Islamic Koran, the Platonic Word which comes from heaven above).. Paul hardly mentions justification by faith outside of Romans & Galatians, which to me says alot.. the situations in both cities were to do with Jew-Gentile relations.. in this case Romans the whole concept of righteousness and justification is framed within the narrative of Israel, which is essentially also Gods dealing with humanity.. the kind of traditional ultra-individualistic ‘justification’ and moral abstract view of righteousness just bypasses this – in some respects its a kind of gnostic reading because the story of Israel becomes almost irrelevant and I find it hard to see what the point of it is.. Jesus is Israel’s Messiah and through Gods faithfulness to His covenant with Israel the blessings for the entire world promised to Abraham have come – blessings for the Gentiles.. this also ties in with what Romans 9-11 is about.. many traditional interpretations have struggled to see what those chapters are about, i think it was c.h. dodd who said it was just some ‘old sermon’ paul chucked ontop of the important bit of Romans 1-8.. actually i think if the letter is read in this way 9-11 is actually the logical climax of the entire letter because the letter isnt a kind of abstract theological treatise on how we indiviually ‘get saved’, but its about Gods covenant with Israel, essentially and the kind of ‘historical gnosticism’ protestant read the Bible through is sidestepped.. Paul is a Jew and recognized that Israels Messiah had come, Jews in the first century were living out a narrative with massive symbols at the heart of it – temple, torah, sabbath etc. Paul is reworking many of these themes in light of Jesus – I just find it hard to believe he suddenly has an encounter with the Risen Lord and ignores the story of Israel and starts espousing this highly individualistic path of salvation – to me thats imposing foreign thought-forms on a first century Jew (which may have occurred, perhaps he became the first western individual in history).. that would be my other problem with the sort of reformed reaction to this – alot of the first century data is just ignored or brushed off as irrelevant.. but how far do we take this kind of docetic reading of the text – is it honestly some kind of timeless work of metaphysical abstraction or is it a historical letter written to a historical context for a particular purpose? obviously there is tension here because you want to affirm its the Word of God on one hand, but to totally deny its historical nature on the other seems irresponsible..

when Wright says I didnt write Romans Paul did, hes in essence saying what would the historical Paul have written, not when individualistic, guilt ridden twenty-first century westerns think he wrote: if we look at second temple Judaism what were the concepts of righteousness, covenant faithfulness, justification etc. that were being bandied about.. Dunn uses the Dead Sea Scrolls to come up with his idea of ‘works of the Law’ being a technical term for sabbath, kashrut and circumcision, which are boundary markers for the covenant people – which makes so much sense historically because of the Maccabbean crisis in the inter-testimonal period.. since then Jews were obsessed with demarcating themselves from the pagans and building fences around the Torah and it lead to the boastful attitude Paul speaks of.. anyway sorry rambling on abit here – the point being I dont find alot of interaction of this level with people who try and counter the NP its more along the lines of this kind of individualistic-hermeneutic and treating the text in such a manner

to me it seems as if its always being framed as some kind of question of works-righteousness, which seems to be some kind of protestant obsession.. but that doesnt bother me, if first century Jews werent concerned with it then we need to stop trying to frame everything in those terms.. i think all wright is saying is that we become members of Gods covenant by grace and we stay in it by living lives of faithfulness (not ‘faith’ as in some kind of one-time decision) to the covenant..

anyway yeah sorry please feel free to give me your thoughts on that

i would also say youve missed out the apocalyptic or echatological aspect of ‘righteousness’ in wright – in essence hes saying that the declaration of righteousness (ie a member of the covenant people of God) has been transposed from the end-time into the midst of history (abit of inaugurated eschatology).. this is perhaps to do with romans 1-2 where Paul is talking about the sinfulness of the Gentiles – a common second-temple trope of Jewish literature, the evil of the pagans who God will judge at the eschaton and vindicate Israel.. Paul’s essentially then turning it round onto Jews and saying youre no more faithful to Gods covenant, leading into chapter 3 where he speaks of being made a member of that people via the faithfulness of Israels Messiah to Gods covenant faithfulness/saving actions.. again this would line up with the anti-individualistic theme – the point isnt about individual souls being saved (ala trad. protestant reading) its about Gods covenant people being vindicated on the last day, a declaration which has now been brought forward into the present.. to me this seems more natural for the first century because they didnt have the kind of ‘individualistic’ categories we do and it seems to fit in, again, with the story of Israel coming to its climax (as Wright would say, though i’d perhaps phrase it differently)..

i would also say regarding Pipers criticism of the concept of righteousness as Gods covenant-faithfulness: from what i got Piper was saying that yes that is true – Gods saving-deeds are an aspect of Gods righteousness and are an outworking of Gods righteousness but it cant be identical with Gods righteousness per se because there must be something about Gods nature that leads him to act in such a saving manner.. in this case Gods saving acts are caused by Gods nature as righteous ie his perfect/moral nature, his deeds flow from that.. i see what hes getting at and, yes, God must have a ‘nature’ which includes moral/perfection (though Im not quite sure why that would lead to saving acts?).. no doubt.. but the point here would be did first century Jews think in such abstract terms? i would strongly argue otherwise – Jewish thinking was highly concrete, it wasnt abstract greek metaphysical speculation about the nature of the divine essence or something.. it was about what God did which, again, is why righteousness and salvation are so often parallel words in the Old Testament (Psalms etc.) and inter-testimonal literature – it is what God does, not who He is essentially.. if we have a hard time thinking that way then its our issue because we’ve inhereted very abstract ways of thought especially as regards about issues like this but, again, it doesnt mean a first century Jew would have thought primarily in these categories – so Pipers criticism, again, doesnt deal with the historical context.. and to tie in with us being righteous – once again, perhaps its not an issue of our moral ‘natures’ in the abstract – its also a concrete definition, its the life we live in faithfulness to the covenant (empowered by the Holy Spirit), as Gods righteousness is what He does in faithfulness to the covenant..

there were Hellenistic Jews such as Philo who were trying to merge Greek philosophy with Judaism but works like that have a very certain abstract character which I would argue is totally missing from Paul (as would be evidenced by the lack of scholars reading Paul in such a fashion)

sorry the point here being simply that i think alot of wright’s critics (or NP critics) often seem to be missing the bigger picture hes painting and it seems to get bogged down in this individualistic works-righteousness thing, whether or not wright is teaching it etc. but this to me comes across like protestant hang ups being brought back to the text i.e. paul could never have been saying that because we know that luther found out otherwise.. but the question to me would be was any of this pelagian-heresy stuff such an issue for first-century Jews or Gentiles wishing to join the covenant people? (btw just for the record im not sure i go along with NP all the way or not, but im fairly convinced about several issues – one is Sanders’ thesis of covenental nomism which to me straight away alleviates all this works-righteousness worry and the re-emphasis on Israel and the Jewish people, which rewrites alot of the de-historization of Paul’s thought)

just to make one final point: when you quote Westerholm: ‘in brief “God’s righteousness” need not mean his “covenant faithfulness”; given Paul’s inattention to matters covenantal, it is unlikely that it would do so; and nothing from the contexts in which he uses the term requires such a sense.’

id have to massively disagree with that because covenant is all over his thought – again look at 9-11 as the climax of the letter, what is it doing there, why mention it if Israel isnt central to his thought? you cant see covenant in his epistles because the terms hes using are covenental (like righteousness) but youre so used to reading it in abstract moral terms that it doesnt seem that obvious.. i think thats part of the problem – the way youve described the NP seems very systematized, as in this bit of doctrine plus that bit of doctrine – but dont view it like that, view it as a narrative through the story of Gods covenant with Israel then it has a much more organic feel.. i think if you read the first chapter or so of Romans straight away we’re into covenental territory because of the pagans being judged for their unrighteousness (ie their unallegience to the covenant with Israel).. i would say the whole letter is covenental.. also (a little tidbit) with Sanders you say he saw room for imputed righteousness – im not quite sure he did, his actual idea was Christ Mysticism – we become ‘one’ with Christ in some mysterious way, i think thats somewhat different from the kind of moral imputation protestants believe in..

but going back to righteousness and covenant, i also think vanhoozer’s ‘compromise’ position also fails to do justice to this point.. i think framing it in any kind of law court maybe going down the wrong road – though i still think wright’s construction is better.. as i said above i think the problem is not recognizing a) covenantal but b) the eschatological and apocalyptic aspects of Pauls thought.. to that extent theres a new book (or 800+ page tome) thats come out in the past year or two by a scholar called douglas campbell called ‘the deliverance of God’ which is an apocalyptic reading of Paul.. i havent read it, just blurbs and reviews etc. but i think hes building on the NP and Wright etc. to say righteousness is an apocalyptic term (not just law-court forensic/legalistic etc.) and its covenental because its to do with Gods deliverance of his covenant people on the last day, and his judgement of the pagan nations (again read romans 1-2).. righteousness has to do with joining that covenant people (maybe some of that filial overtones of Vanhoozer?) as he states in Ephesians and Romans 9-11 (the wonderful grafted into the olive tree metaphor), who will be vindicated as His covenant people on that last day.. i think using such lawcourt terminology though perhaps helpful in many respects loses the actual eschatological nature of Paul’s use (and id say the first century use) of the term.. in essence, as i said above, Paul is reworking Jewish theology around Jesus the Jewish Messiah – in this case covenant as a key Jewish concept.. so when God finally and decisively acts on behalf of His covenant people to vindicate them on that last day (ie His righteousnes/saving acts) those who have faith in Messiah and are faithful to the covenant which has been redrawn around Him (as the King of Israel) will be vindicated – the pagans will not..

i think this is perhaps part of a larger problem within the church and its to do with how we think of God in universal, abstract, general terms on one hand (ie creator, absolute being, king of the universe etc.) – which is all true.. and how we think of him as particular, historical, revealed etc. (the God of Israel, the Messiah of Israel).. theres a tension because as westerners we tend to think in abstraction and universalization.. i think this is playing itself out in various debates in the church about the status of Israel and Jewish people today and Gods covenant with them (whole other topic which i dont want to go into now), but this tension is alive.. the point here is we tend towards such absolute and universal/general thought about God that it seems hard to reconcile that to His choice of and covenant with one nation, and we also seem to brush over the fact Jesus was a Jew and he is also King of Israel – we see him as the risen, universal Lord (which He is)..

im sure youve read it but right at the very top of what i first said.. when im using faithfulness instead of faith and ‘of’ instead of ‘is’ (so faithfulness of Messiah instead of faith in Christ) its playing on the ambiguity of the Greek (the objective/subjective genitive thing).. in one case its an act we do (faith in Christ, imputed righteousness), in the other case its what the Messiah has done in being faithful to Gods covenant plans (just in case youre wondering how i got that translation)

Me:I have written some points down in note form as I read through the above:

I Only had 1,750 words – so I couldn’t get everything in! So there is a lot of stuff that I wasn’t able to include in this essay. I wrote this essay for my course at London School of Theology.

There are many things that NPP really makes sense off: the fact the Jews did not have a work-righteousness attitude in the 1st century which I believe is true – and makes sense on so many levels. It makes clear the issues of Galatians, and aspects of Romans and James. It also massively helps me understand that Paul didn’t just write off the old covenant as now redundant because of the new: it helps me understand that Paul saw the old covenant as fulfilled in the new. These are a lot of things you have mentioned, and I wasn’t able to fit into my essay – because I was purposely trying to focus on the contentious points of the argument – to make for better dialogue within the essay. I understand that you say you would like more interaction with NPP on the other points that NPP seem to get right, rather than focusing on an ‘individualistic-hermeneutic’. I would also like to see more interaction on that level. However, as we are individuals, even if we were to start thinking of salvation as a corporate affair, I still think each person would be most interested in ‘how that is going affect me’ – i.e individualism. So I think, as our culture leans that way, we as a western culture will need answers to the individualist questions.

The comments about Wright’s comment ‘I didn’t write Romans, Paul did’, I said was ‘beside the point’ because it doesn’t help counter the tradition argument. By saying this Wright is just saying that Paul fits in with his interpretation and not Old Perspective (OPP), but that is what the debate is itself about, Wright brings no knew evidence to the table. OPP believe that their interpretation also fits with the historical Paul.

Your point about Dunn using the Dead Sea Scrolls to define ‘works of the law’, I have not problem with, and I do agree with you that it is very helpful for our exegesis.

‘Members of God’s covenant by Grace, and we stay in it by living lives of Faithfulness’ – so do you believe that one always gets in, or get back in (if one went astray for a while), by Gods grace, repenting and living a life of faithfulness to Christ. I.e. is it our faithfulness that keeps us in the covenant, or Gods?

Your ideas about inaugurated eschatology, and the faithfulness of the messiah fulfilling God’s covenant and vindicating God’s people, how is the traditional protestant divergent from this? This is something I have always believed, even before I read about NPP.

Your question about whether or not 1st century Jew or gentiles were as worried as we are about the Pelagian- heresy stuff? I don’t think so. BUT, perhaps the Gentiles might have been. Moral issues were certainly a problem inCorinth! Perhaps it may have been interesting to them – but of course it wasn’t around at that time!

Westerholm: I think what Westerholm was saying is that if you were to replace ‘God’s righteousness’ with ‘covenant faithfulness’, it might make sense to NPP scholars, but if that is what Paul meant, why didn’t he just say it? It was within his vocabulary. Plus, he might talk about covenant all the way through Romans, but no where is ‘works of the law’ explained, or ‘God’s righteousness’ explained as ‘Covenant faithfulness’. Seeing as Paul was writing to Gentiles and not Jews, it is strange that he does not explain this – as I’m guessing they would have been a clueless as we are.

However, when you ask me not to see NPP as a bit of doctrine, but as a narrative – I assure you I do – and the narrative is what I find very helpful – but it is finer points of doctrine that I have a few issues with – hence why they are discussed in the essay.

Perhaps you are right about Sanders not giving room to the protestant idea of imputed righteousness. I didn’t research Sandres as much as I did Wright and Dunn.

When you are talking about reading Paul in an apocalyptic way – I guess you mean that ‘righteous’ is defined by who is in the covenant people at the end of time? And reading Paul in this way is helpful? I’m sorry but I don’t think im picking up the nuance – how is that different from the idea of imputed righteousness? Because the covenant is designed and held by God, and as one in the covenant, you are declared righteous – and hence are in the covenant. I would love and explanation of this – because I do find it difficult to get my head around! J

As I said in my essay my poison at the moment is to agree with Andrew Wilson: ‘Andrew Wilson helpfully comments that the NPP has brought new insight to passages like Galatians 2: 11-21, but that other passages of scripture, such as Ephesians 2, are still more naturally interpreted in an ‘Old Perspective’ framework. (Wilson, ‘Learning to Discern’, Newfrontiers: Training Tracks. 2011. Newfrontiers : Training Tracks. [ONLINE] Available at: http://newfrontierstogether.org/Groups/174931/Newfrontiers/Resources/Talks_and_Preaches/Select_Event/Leadership_International_11/Training_Tracks.aspx. [Accessed 08 November 2011].) Ephesians 2: 8-9 do seem to imply that Paul is talking about ‘good works’ (v.10) as opposed to ‘works of the law’. Therefore in this passage I believe in the OPP, but I do think that the NPP applies to Galatians, for example. So I’m in the happy half-way house.

Thank you so much for your comments! I enjoyed reading them!

Anon: In response to a few points: ‘Westerholm: I think what Westerholm was saying is that if you were to replace ‘God’s righteousness’ with ‘covenant faithfulness’, it might make sense to NPP scholars, but if that is what Paul meant, why didn’t he just say it? It was within his vocabulary. Plus, he might talk about covenant all the way through Romans, but no where is ‘works of the law’ explained, or ‘God’s righteousness’ explained as ‘Covenant faithfulness’. Seeing as Paul was writing to Gentiles and not Jews, it is strange that he does not explain this – as I’m guessing they would have been a clueless as we are.’ I cant see as he defines righteousness as abstract moral nature either – does that mean he didnt mean that? the argument from non-definition works both ways. The fact you’re suggesting he needs to spell it out probably isnt fair to the first-century context, to which ill refer you an article (but youll have to pick these points out as they arent essentially about this): http://www.tektonics.org/qt/solex.html essentially the first century was a ‘high context’ culture, as opposed to ours which is low context, essentially i think this means that words, phrases and concepts were said and written about without the need to go into great depth about their connotation – it was just assumed (and this follows from the group-oriented society where they lived out their concepts and categories). so if paul doesnt ‘spell out’ his connotation of righteousness it doesnt follow that he didnt mean it as covenant faithfulness (or abstract morality either). the point here would simply be we have to historically reconstruct the best definition or connotation of righteousness – and as far as i can see the NP have done the most work in this area and the argument for covenant faithfulness is a fairly strong one given its usage in other first century (and inter-testimonial) Jewish literature.. to argue otherwise youd have to make a case for righteousness, justification and related concepts referring to what protestants have traditionally held it to be in the first century (and before).. im not aware anyone has done this which is why the NP holds more water for me.. now Paul may have totally redefined righteousness from this first century usage – but then the argument can be turned back around: if hes totally using a new connotation of the word then why doesnt he spell it out in his letters? after all its a radically new usage and the likelihood is that many of the gentiles in Rome were previously Godfearing Gentiles who perhaps didnt go all the way to conversion, in which case they would have had a very good grasp of Jewish covenental concepts such as righteousness (which perhaps also explains why Paul doesn’t have to spell it out – they already knew).

‎’Your ideas about inaugurated eschatology, and the faithfulness of the messiah fulfilling God’s covenant and vindicating God’s people, how is the traditional protestant divergent from this? This is something I have always believed, even before I read about NPP. ‘ Do traditional protestants read the word ‘righteousness’ in this manner? i thought that was what the whole debate was about? are we talking about ‘righteousness’ here – if we are then no protestants havent read it in covenental terms. ‘When you are talking about reading Paul in an apocalyptic way – I guess you mean that ‘righteous’ is defined by who is in the covenant people at the end of time? And reading Paul in this way is helpful? I’m sorry but I don’t think im picking up the nuance – how is that different from the idea of imputed righteousness? ‘ you seriously cant see the difference between righteousness as a primarily moral category and righteousness as a covenental category? im not sure if i can explain the ‘nuance’ more than i have (ie read the Piper part again).. to me there isnt much of a nuance because we’re talking in totally different conceptual categories ie one is abstract, the other is concrete – it is about Actions not Being (and, again, there is the point Piper makes about actions flowing from being, but as i said in the post before whether or not that is true we’re talking about how first century Jews viewed the concept).. lets look at it from a totally different angle – Paul in 1 Corinthians 8 says that for us there is One God, the Father, and One Lord, Jesus. Hes explicitly stating the Shema (to a Gentile audience in Corinth – again high-context) but notice here he isnt making some abstract divulgence of the essential ontological nature of the Trinity, hes identifying Jesus within the Godhead of Israel’s Shema.. it isn’t so much about ‘what’ Jesus is, as ‘who’ He is – identity is more important than ontology if we can put it that way.. and why is Jesus identified in the Godhead of Israel – in the most crucial statement of monotheism in probably the entire Bible? Because of what He has done (as Paul spends most of his epistles expounding) – identity and action are what were important for Jews, not ontological categories of being or essence.. Gods actions in his covenant faithfulness to Israel are what righteousness connotes – not some kind of ‘nature’ that God possesses explained in fairly abstract terms – He is known as the God of Israel because of what He does for them, not because of something He is.. again if you cant understand actions without nature or being lurking in the background (as Piper cant) then id say once again thats only our hang up as western scientifically/ontologically concerned individuals – to us essence and nature is alot more important than action (which also perhaps ties into some of the criticism Wright gets as he doesnt think it means anything to talk about our natures changing in the concept of ‘imputed righteousness’ if we dont actually do anything in response – which is faithfulness, our faithfulness to the covenant, ’emunah’ in hebrew – when Paul says in Romans 1 gospel of God is from faith to faith thats the reason why it would be better translated faithfulness to faithfulness – or Messiah’s faithfulness to the covenant to our faithfulness to the covenant).. youre right about we’re western individuals and we have individualistic concerns, but the kind of existential dilemmas we experience are a fairly modern phenomena – people throughout history (and the majority of people alive in the non-western world today) have identified themselves first with the social group they belong to (which is why paul can say all cretans are liars and, to us, it sounds very sterotypical and inflammatory – to a first-century cretan they took pride in their deceitfulness as it was seen as a group trait).. we’ve totally reversed the process – we consider ourselves first individuals and, secondly, members of a social collective.. the strength of the NP is its massive picture of covenant and community – it allows us to transcend the notion of self which id argue the OP doesnt, because its inherently concerned with the salvation of an individual. another strength of the NP is that in Jewish thought creation and covenant were inextricably linked – so the vindication of Gods covenant people on the last day is also the essence of recreation – the covenant was meant to deal with the problem of sin and evil in the world.. once again this explains the flows of Romans – how we get from the early chapters of judgement on the pagans through to righteousness/justification (defined as membership in the covenant people) and through to new creationin romans 8 (where Jewish creation & covenant is again redefined through Messiah) and then onto the covenant people Israel in 9-11 – its covenant all the way.. but the issue of recreation tied in with the covenant more naturally allows for a grander picture of the entire cosmos being redeemed – without wishing to overstate my case the OP comes across as too concerned with my individual eschatology and salvation.. this is a grander picture.. and as for ephesians 2 – im not quite seeing how that best interpreted as OP? youre talking about the fellow heirs with israel bit? this fits alot better with the NP simply because by saying righteousness in being made part of the covenant it explains how paul can say we are now fellow heirs with Israel – we have joined the covenant God has made with them (again the olive tree metaphor in Romans 9).. cf. 2:15 – the Law was the barrier because of its barriers.. maybe youd like to explain how it fits the OP more? essentially it seems like what you (or andrew wilson) is suggesting is that Paul is using OP conceptual categories in the first half of chapter 2 but then switches over to covenental language in the second half. even so im not seeing that the OP explains verses 9-10 any better – works may well be the technical term for covenant boundary markers (and the boastful attitude first century Jews held against the pagans because of them) and im sure wright would be fairly happy with saying we do good works. i cant see this is that clear cut, it certainly isnt jumping out of the page and screaming OP at me – i would say if anything chapter 1 makes me think OP more (well it makes me feel like a Calvinist everytime i read it).

and works of the law also works for the high context explanation – youre basically assuming that righteousness and ‘works’ are more naturally connotative of morality and ‘works-righteousness’ – but id argue thats only because thats the context in which youve learned it.. words change meanings and connotations over time and this is certainly the case here.. why would gentiles in the first century have ‘naturally’ assumed righteousness was moral and not covenental? its not like the word ‘righteousness’ has some fixed eternal meaning which always connoted morality unless specifically stated otherwise by first century Jews (i.e. Paul).. and just to answer the top of the second reply post part again: ‘Your ideas about inaugurated eschatology, and the faithfulness of the messiah fulfilling God’s covenant and vindicating God’s people, how is the traditional protestant divergent from this? This is something I have always believed, even before I read about NPP. ‘ the answer is no – protestants dont read righteousness eschatologically or covenentally – they primarily read it morally.. if you believed it before you read the NP then im not sure how/where you go it from the word ‘righteous’? for me the way protestants have read, say Romans, is all about how God vindicates individuals – not his covenant people.. this is what i mean by the de-historicizing of the old testament narrative, its like theres this story of Israel, Jesus comes along and then we suddenly switch to a kind of a-historical ‘salvation’ to heaven by Gods righteousness – the historical narrative of Israel & the nations (and by that token the entire created order) is suddenly side-stepped and we’re into something else.. this is why i refer to it as a kind of historically ‘gnostic’ theology – if not ontologically gnostic.. we suddenly begin speaking in universal and abstract terms as opposed to Jesus the Jewish Messiah and the God of Israel.. btw it was a good essay – i enjoyed reading it!

Me: Hi

Westerholm: ‘God’s righteousness’ vs ‘covenant faithfulness’; I wasn’t trying to argue that Paul does not mean covenant faithfulness, as your arguments, and Wright’s, are good in persuading me that he did mean covenant faithfulness, as A PART of his definition of righteousness. Certainly, Paul does indeed talk in covenantal language. I suppose what I am saying (I’m unsure if Westerholm holds this view) is that ‘Righteousness of God’ or ‘Righteousness’ I believe hold both definitions. I.e. ‘Righteousness’ = ‘In the covenant, and judged righteous, not on the basis of good works’ I think Romans spells this out most clearly in Ch 6. After Paul has argued for righteousness apart from works of the law, Ch 6 asks the obvious question: ‘are we to continue to sin so that grace may increase?’ and ‘are we to sin because we are not under law but under grace?’ – Therefore highlighting the fact that Paul has been talking about ‘righteousness’ in moral categories. This is not to say that it is not also referring to a form of corporate covenantal salvation – but it does certainly mean ‘morality’ is a part of its definition. (I don’t know if I have expressed that very well! Hope it makes sense!!!)

I take your point about Paul not having to spell out what he meant by ‘righteousness’; because the recipients of the letter already knew – I think you may be right. BUT I do still question whether places like Corinth would have known? They seemed pretty unsure about a lot of things, especially when you think about the questions they must have asked Paul to receive 1 Corinthians as a response to their questions.

‘you seriously cant see the difference between righteousness as a primarily moral category and righteousness as a covenantal category?’

I can in abstract terms, sure. But I was asking this question in practical terms: How does this affect the practical and pastoral running of a church. Most people to whom I try to explain NPP seem to say ‘well that’s not much different’, to which I respond, ‘it is in terms of how you see Gods continuity between the Old and New covenants’, but practically, to most people, there doesn’t seem to be an obvious difference. However, I do think NPP would require one to believe in once saved not always saved, because once saved always saved is based on the idea of imputed righteousness. (I believe – this is just the result of my own thinking on the matter – I may be wrong). So what I was trying to ask here, was not what the academic or theological difference, but the practical difference it makes to individual salvation.

‘identity and action are what were important for Jews, not ontological categories of being or essence.. Gods actions in his covenant faithfulness to Israel are what righteousness connotes – not some kind of ‘nature’ that God possesses explained in fairly abstract terms – He is known as the God of Israel because of what He does for them, not because of something He is.. again if you cant understand actions without nature or being lurking in the background (as Piper cant) then id say once again thats only our hang up as western scientifically/ontologically concerned individuals’

I see what you are saying here, and again, I would say that action and being are linked, so I guess I am like Piper. But which of the NPP guy such as Dunn, Salnders and Wright say that one’s identity does not change when they become a Christian? (I see identity and being as synonymous) I guess OPP thinks Being is primary, whereas NPP would think Action is primary? But I don’t think OPP see righteousness as ONLY Being, and I don’t think NPP see righteousness as ONLY Action. Both believe in a mix of both, but use a different frameworks to place emphasis in different places. So I believe you are right in saying that identity and action was important to Jews. But because identity was important, so was ‘being’, being a Jew was important. Action was also important, as it still is for OPP, because works evidence faith . . . (James 2).

‘its covenant all the way.. but the issue of recreation tied in with the covenant more naturally allows for a grander picture of the entire cosmos being redeemed – without wishing to overstate my case the OP comes across as too concerned with my individual eschatology and salvation.. this is a grander picture..’

I agree, and I think that picture is valid. But I think individual concerns are important. Perhaps they were not as important in other generations, but I very much doubt they were not important at all?

‘maybe youd like to explain how it fits the OP more? essentially it seems like what you (or andrew wilson) is suggesting is that Paul is using OP conceptual categories in the first half of chapter 2 but then switches over to covenental language in the second half.’

I think Paul is talking in covenantal and moral categories – so its not that he jumps from one to the other in Eph 2, but that he is talking about different aspects of the same thing. I believe that the v 9-10 say clearly that it is by grace that one is saved, through faith (or faithfulness), and not a result of works. He then goes on to say that that good works are prepared for us. Therefore, it seems to me that he could be using NPP, but that the context of ‘good works’ used in v 10 seems to imply that ‘good works’ is what is being talked about in v 9. So vs 9-8 could read ‘You are saved by grace, through faithfulness, not as a result of good works’. Hence, it may be read in an NPP, but with an OPP twist. I.e it differentiates between our faithfulness, and our good works. Basically my issue with NPP is the place of good works, or moral actions. Do they become a BASIS of our salvation and a BASIS of our faithfulness to the covenant? Or are they EVIDENCE of our membership in the covenant? I’m happier with the fact that they are evidence, as v 10 says that he had prepared good works for us to do. But that they are not the basis, as it is by grace we are saved, through faithfulness. But faithfulness is distinct from ‘works’ or ‘good works’.

In short – perhaps OPP doesn’t jump out at me either, but OPP does seem to make sense of the passage as well as NPP . . . to me anyway

‘the answer is no – protestants dont read righteousness eschatologically or covenentally – they primarily read it morally.. if you believed it before you read the NP then im not sure how/where you go it from the word ‘righteous’?’

Well I did read it morally, but morality itself (or ‘righteousness’) would have an eschatological and covenantal effect. So I did see ‘righteousness as defining the covenant people of God, and what would happen at the end of time.

‘its like theres this story of Israel, Jesus comes along and then we suddenly switch to a kind of a-historical ‘salvation’ to heaven by Gods righteousness’

I totally agree – and that’s one reason why I agree that NPP is very helpful. I would agree with it here. The only think I am contesting is the role of morality in God’s Covenant people today. As Jesus has been sacrificed once for all time.

I’m please you liked my essay – I thought it was OK, I got 65% so not too good, not too bad . . . .

Anyway, I’m studying 40 from 1st year degree, 40 from 2nd year, and 40 from 3rd. I’m a ‘personal development’ student, which means I pay as I go for each course, and can do what I like!

Advertisements
  1. Leave a comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: