I’ve been asked about the new perspective on Paul. Boy, that is a complicated subject. What I am going to say today about the new perspective relates to justification. Now, new perspectives have several issues they are interested in, but the one that we will talk about today is justification.
They used the word “new perspective” as opposed to the old perspective, which would be the traditional Protestant perspective of justification. So the new perspective on Paul is saying that the old perspective is wrong and that we have a new perspective.The new perspective on Paul is saying that the old perspective is wrong and that we have a new perspective.
This subject is in the scholarly world, and there are fights in the scholarly world about it, but it is filtering down into mainline churches, at least to the ministers of the mainline churches. It is getting into the evangelical world and that is why it has become an important issue.
Reformed Theological Seminary, conservative forum theology, and the historic creeds are all against new perspective.
What is the new perspective? Let me give a shot at it. Again, it is pretty technical. What is the new perspective on Paul? To understand the new perspective of Paul, you have to understand they have two new perspectives.
The first one is a new perspective about Jewish background issues and about the Judaism of Paul’s day. They take that new view and build their second new perspective upon it, which is about Paul.The new perspective is unified on: no work’s righteousness in Judaism and Paul not arguing against it.
What is the new perspective about Judaism? Their view is that legalistic works righteousness did not exist in the first century. No Jewish groups had this view. Again, the traditional Protestant view is that Paul was arguing against legalistic works righteousness. Legalistic works righteousness is the view that you get to heaven, at least partially, if not fully, by your works. Therefore, when they go to Paul, they say, “If Paul, which on the surface it looks like he’s arguing against works righteousness when he says, ‘Justified by grace, not justified by works,’ it looks like he’s arguing against works righteousness.” But since works righteousness didn’t exist he couldn’t have been arguing against it.
If he wasn’t arguing against it, then the reformers and the traditional Protestant view was wrong. The traditional Protestant view says that the way one gets to Heaven is by two options: works righteousness, but due to sin we can’t do that because that is opposed to getting to heaven by grace for the work of Christ and putting our faith in that: justified by grace, justified by the work of Christ, justified by faith. The new perspective is unified on there being no works righteousness in Judaism and Paul not arguing against it. Therefore, the traditional view of reformed Protestantism, evangelical Protestantism, and Lutheran Protestant is all wrong about justification.You may think that justification means to be declared righteous, but it means that you’re a part of the church.
What did Paul mean by justification? Their view is that he meant that if you’re justified, you’re a member of the church. You’re a member of the covenant. You may think that justification means to be declared righteous, but it means that you’re a part of the church and you initially join the church by faith and you stay in, partially, by faith and works. In fact, they have final justification. At the end you are justified, they explicitly say, based on, at least partially, your works.
The traditional Protestant view says that justification means you’re declared righteous. But, where do I get my righteousness? Was it my own righteousness? No, it was the righteousness of Christ, then it was legally given to me and accepted through faith. That is a traditional Protestant view. A new perspective simply means that you’re a member of the church and the final justification is that you will be partially admitted into heaven based on your works and not based on the imputed righteousness of Christ.