Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Bp NT Wright: NPP Protagonist
This post was inspiried after an exchange between blogpastor and myself over the merits and the demerits of the New Perspective of Paul on facebook. I refer to NT Wright because I am familiar with his writings and Wright represents the New Perspective of Paul (NPP).

Wright's view of Justification is covenantal, forensic and eschatological. "Faith" for Wright, not unlike circumcision, functions like a boundary marker which identifies gentiles as part of God's people. In Paul's historical context, a highly influential group believed that one had to be circumcised if one wanted to become a Christian. Paul opposed this view because he saw it as an intrusion which highlighted jewish ethnic nationalism at the expense of one's belief in Christ. Parts of Paul's letter to Romans and the letter to the Galatians gives creedence to Wright's emphasis.   

I sometimes think ... however that Wright unnecessarily gives emphasis to the the larger context of justification at the cost of the personal dimension of the justificiation which includes a person being declared righteous before a Holy God. Cant we have both? Paul was referring to a personal faith as a well as a faith which functioned as a boundary marker for God's people. A new believer's personal faith made him part of God's people without having to exhibit redundant Jewish religious beliefs  

I am all for a wider context of justification. My own understanding of justification has been enriched by the NPP but not at the expense of seeing faith as a personal belief. Wright is correct in saying that faith is a boundary marker but his view is deficient when he gives no space for faith as a personal belief. He tries to clarify himself elsewhere but you get the feeling he is trying to go beyond the old perspective. Hence the criticism that's levelled against him.

Here is an example of trying to integrate the old and new perspectives of Paul:

Romans 3:21-26 speaks of Christ's righteousness coming through faith. The faith described here refers to persona belief and a trusting relationship v. 22, 26. This is the old perspective. The NPP however go on to read Romans 3:27-31 as grounds for identifying faith as a new boundary marker for God's people which includes the gentiles v 28-30. The law/circumcision is viewed as a redundant boundary marker which only propagates a Jewish ethnicism which tries to make gentiles into Jewish proselytes. Romans 4 makes a lots of sense when read with the NPP lens. But the point is that the old perspective and the NPP is integrated when we marry Romans 3:21-26 with the Romans 3: 27-31.

1 comment:

Monte Lee Rice said...

I believe somewhere in the final pages of Wright's "Justification" book, He in fact stresses his belief that both "old" and "new" perspectives can be integrated through a broader and more comprehensive understanding of "justification" and "righteousness." Two more thoughts: first, some times ago I read Abraham Herchel's text, "The Prophets," long before I was familiar with the "old" and "new" pauline debate. In hindsight, I now see that Wright's exegesis does resonate with some salient Jewish ideas on "righteousness" (Heb, "hessed"). Second, I am currently reading Frank Macchia's newly Published, "Justified in the Spirit;" a seminal Pentecostal attempt to articulate an ecumenical ly informed theology of justification that also reflects the Spirit's role in justification. In doing so, Macchia finds help and confirmation from "new" perspective trajectories, particularly from Wright's work.