Saturday, June 3, 2017

A Refutation Of The New Perspective On Paul

  • Defining The Issues:
          -In Pauline texts pertaining to justification, we oftentimes find faith as the object of salvation to the exclusion of "works" or "works of the Law" (Romans 3:27-28; Galatians 2:16-21). These kinds of passages found in the epistles written by the Apostle Paul are primarily used to defend the concept of justification by faith alone. However, there also exists a modernized, liberal interpretation of the Pauline texts which stands totally contrary to the conventional understanding of the words of the Apostle Paul when he rejects the idea of works being necessary for our justification. It is commonly known as "The New Perspective On Paul." This theological development was practically unheard of in most Christian circles, until former canon theologian of Westminster Abbey now turned Anglican Bishop of Durham named N.T. Wright published a book on the subject titled "What St. Paul Really Said." Consequently, the proliferation of this information on this interpretation of various Pauline phrases of the New Testament has become a subject of controversy in Christian circles. Not only have people in the Evangelical community been deceived into defending this erroneous idea, but Roman Catholics have also decided to level this doctrinal development as an objection to Scripture citations used to demonstrate the concept of Sola Fide ("faith alone").
  • What Is The New Perspective On Paul?:  
          -This theological school of thought maintains that the Apostle Paul never argued against depending on the moral aspects of the Mosaic Law for getting right in the sight of God, but rather that he only stood in opposition to observing the dietary and ceremonial parts of the Law. In other words, advocates of New Perspectivism believe that Paul argued against circumcision, heeding to the Old Testament food laws, and the observance of Jewish Sabbaths. The phrase "works of the law" has been reduced to Jewish ethnic badges or the ceremonial law. It has been claimed that conservative Protestant churches have derived their soteriology on allegedly anachronistic interpretations of Scripture made by Protestant Reformers. Proponents of the New Perspective on Paul claim that we need to view the phrase "works of the Law" through a different lens of scriptural interpretation in order to reach the conclusion that he was only arguing against boundary-markers. These people claim that the Judaism of Paul's day was not legalistic. Roman Catholics have argued that we are saved by the keeping of a new law through "works of grace." The purpose of this article is twofold: 1.) to defend the traditional interpretation of the inspired statements uttered by the Apostle Paul on the subject of justification, and 2.) to addresses Catholic apologists who have resorted to this scholarship in arguing against Sola Fide.
  • There Is No Biblical Distinction Between Good Works That Contribute To Our Eternal Salvation And Good Works That Do Not Contribute To Our Salvation:
          -What needs to be recognized is that the Jewish Law is God's standard of morality. In other words, the Law is the highest moral standard existing. It is the highest Law around because it reflects the perfect righteousness of God. Thus, it is understandable to view the works prescribed by this moral standard as being able to save people from eternal condemnation. However, the Law was "weak" because of man's sinful heart (Romans 8:3). We are the reason for the Law being considered as "weak." No man in his sinful condition can satisfy God's perfect standard, which encompasses the Ten Commandments (Romans 13:8-9). Love of God and love of neighbor are what sum up the Law in its entirety (Matthew 22:36-40). There is not a single form of good behavior or work of grace that does not fit into those categories. We are saved by faith in God, apart from the merit of any and all good works.
          -Never do we see the pertinent passages in Scripture to the subject of justification establish a distinction between good works that do not merit eternal salvation and good works that do merit eternal salvation. In the Bible, we never see the completion of any specific charitable deeds as being prescribed as necessary criteria for the forgiveness of sins by God. There is not even the slightest hint of Paul narrowing specifically in on the ceremonial Law throughout his writings. There is no such thing as a distinction between good works that save verses good works that do not save. We are not saved by works of the Law. We are not saved by any good works.
  • Evidence From The Book Of Acts:
          -In the Book of Acts, the Apostle Paul emphatically stated that all who place their trust in the Lord Jesus Christ as a result of hearing gospel preaching are justified from all things which they could not be justified under the Law of Moses (Acts 13:38-39). That point easily transcends Jewish ethnic badges.
  • Evidence From The Epistle To The Romans:
          -It would be nonsensical to limit the phrases "works" and "works of the Law" in the context of this Pauline epistle to only meaning the exclusion of mere boundary-markers, since the surrounding context refers to obedience to the Ten Commandments (Romans 2:20-25). The wrath of God is revealed against all sin (Romans 1:18), which includes both Jews and Gentiles. Paul is emphatic that God's Law covers "all mouths" and "the whole world" (Romans 3:19-20). In that same passage, he states that "no flesh" will be justified in His sight by works of the Law. Moreover, Romans 4:5-8, the parallel passage to Romans 3:28, tells us that are we considered righteous by God through our faith in Him "apart from works." Paul does not limit his scope to dietary or ceremonial laws. Through the Law comes the knowledge of sin (Romans 3:20).
  • Evidence From The Epistle To The Galatians:
          -The phrase "apart from the works of the Law" is found in the epistle of Paul to the Galatians in chapters two and three. We know from the context of this epistle that the Apostle Paul dealt with a broader scope than the ceremonial Law, for he quoted the Book of the Law which prescribes the death penalty (Galatians 3:10-11). Galatians 3:10 is a quotation of Deuteronomy 27:26, which defines "works of the Law" as the entirety of the Torah.
  • Evidence From Other Pauline Writings:
          -There are other passages in Pauline writings that outwardly deny "works" as being the basis of justification, rather than "apart from the works of the Law" (Ephesians 2:8-10; 2 Timothy 1:9-10; Titus 3:5-7). The context of these Bible verses is not about the Jewish Law. Rather, they speak of our calling to holiness, God's mercy, and genuine conversion of heart. Thus, we have another solid reason for not embracing the New Perspective on Paul.

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