Jesus Creed

Jesus Creed


Justification and New Perspective 11

posted by Scot McKnight

NTWright.jpg In the 5th chp of NT Wright’s new book, Justification: God’s Plan & Paul’s Vision
, Wright explains the significance of Abraham in the middle of Galatians. Three issues emerge in chps three and four, and it gets to the heart of Tom Wright’s proposal within the new perspective — and it is not a denial of personal salvation but a placing of personal salvation within the context of what God is doing in history — and that dimension is too often ignored in the old perspective and another context is given — God’s plan for personal salvation is what drives that reading of Scripture. Here are the three major themes for Galatians 3-4:

1. The covenant and promise to Abraham.
2. The Law
3. The Messiah

The the point of the section is to show how the Law fits into all of this: “it gets in the way of the promise to Abraham” (123). How? It chokes the promise within Israel’s failure, it threatens to divide the family of God, and it locks up everything in the prison house of sin. God thereby makes his purposes clear: to carry on the single plan with Israel (and Abraham) on the basis of faith and the Torah makes that faith-response the clear implication of the whole plan. Even the curse passage (3:10-14) is connected — not to human sin — but to the inclusion of Gentiles in Abraham’s blessing and that we might receive this promise on the basis of faith.

Here it is:


“Scripture has concluded everything under sin, so that the promise, on the basis of the faithfulness of Jesus the Messiah, might be given to those who believe. God’s single-plan-through-Israel -for the-world has turned, as God always intended, into God’s-single-plan- through-the-faithful-Israelite for-the-world-now-including-Israel-too.” (I have made this all italics and split some words up to spread it out.)

The NT Wright version of the new perspective is all right here: the theology of Paul is about how God’s covenant with Abraham to bless the world has found its fulfillment in Jesus Christ and this history of Israel focus is more central than the how do I get myself saved? focus of the older perspective.

Sin and God’s plan through Abraham to bless the world are connected tightly in Paul’s argument. Torah can only be understood within this plan for history context for Paul, instead of simply within the personal salvation issue. God designed the Torah to keep Israel in check.



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Ted M. Gossard

posted May 27, 2009 at 4:10 am


Good, and clarifying for me, Scot. I can’t wait to get and read the book, but one thing at a time (or only so many things at a time, at times).



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david yates

posted May 27, 2009 at 5:15 am


Ted #1: I’m also a bit behind in things!
In this part, I find Scot’s ‘the how do I get myself saved? focus of the older perspective’ tendentious.
I also find Wright doesn’t explain just how ‘Law chokes the promise’ (Scot).
But, much of Wright’s exegesis builds on earlier bits, and if I might question something we have too quickly for me gone on from (JNP 10), which then affects how I think of Gal chapters 3 and 4:
I’ve tried hard to read Gal 2.15-21 as Wright recommends (pp.91 -101, GB), as about marks of separation, and I can get as far as Gal 2.17, when the question of sin comes in (for Wright it already comes in at Gal 2.16 in the OT quote etc). But Gal 2.19 seems to me to be expanding on Gal 2.17, and saying Christ is not minister of sin because I have died to law ‘that I might live unto God’. Wright, differently, says Gal 2.19 is about change of identity. Then Wright says Gal 2.21 is about lack of gratitude (which seems very weak), whereas for me it is about it being necessary for Christ to die since sin couldn’t be dealt with by law. So, I find Wright’s exegesis of Gal 2.15-21 not good.



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Travis Greene

posted May 27, 2009 at 9:18 am


David,
Is “how do I get myself saved?” not the focus of the older perspective?



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:mic

posted May 27, 2009 at 9:22 am


david (2) – I don’t think the comment is designed to be ‘tendentious’ when you consider this series (along with Wright’s book) is designed to highlight the DISTINCTIONS between the two perspectives. This is simply a way of comparing the NPP movement with the previous approach(es).



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joanne

posted May 27, 2009 at 10:14 am


It helps me to look at Galatians from a communal perspective rather than an individual perspective. One of the questions of Galatians is who are the people of God… are they the ones circumcised, the ones with the law given by the prophets, or the ones who through faith have been united with Christ.
God is working through his people as defined by Christ, his faithfulness, his work.
As I tell my congregation… Jesus is the vine… we are the branch and the life and power of Christ flows from Christ, the new source for life and power. Christ is the one who fulfilled the vocation and call of Israel, the one who pleased God… and when united with Christ through faith, we are connected to Christ and empowered to be God’s people in the world as God always intended.
All has been accomplished in Christ… salvation, call, vocation, and the people of God are those who respond to that faithfulness in faith and trust, thus uniting with Christ in a sense–like the vine and the branch.



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joanne

posted May 27, 2009 at 10:26 am


just to clarify a bit more… when I say all has been accomplished in Christ, i need to add that he also fulfilled the law which is what the torah is all about… not the torah as a bunch of rules but as a vision for community and justice and a way of living that honors God and his creation.



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John W Frye

posted May 27, 2009 at 10:26 am


David (#2),
You are too quick to universalize Gal 2:15-21. NT Wright makes its clear that Paul is dealing with Peter *as Jews* and pointing out how Peter’s behavior of separating from Gentiles violates God’s covenant with Abraham and the Torah condemns him for doing so. The Torah was designed to keep Israel as the light and hope of the world. The Jews, in their sinfulness, made Torah not only their boundary marker but the boundary marker for the Gentiles as well. Paul will have none of that. So, the Jews 1) failed in their purpose as a blessing to the world and 2) perverted the role of Torah. In this context, Gal 2:21 is not weak at all, but a glorious shout of freedom!



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ChrisB

posted May 27, 2009 at 10:42 am


NPP people often say that people under the “old perspective” are too concern about “how do I get myself saved,” but at any point do any of them actually answer that question?



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joanned

posted May 27, 2009 at 10:47 am


persons individually are saved through faith in Christ and his faithfulness in NPP. In my opinion or understanding of it, we are saved personally and individually but that this is not the end of it…there is more. A new community is created, a new humanity in Christ and God’s people are ministers in this present world…. priests as Peter calls them.



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Michael W. Kruse

posted May 27, 2009 at 11:16 am


#8 Chris
I’d add to joanned #9, that we aren’t just saved from sin. We are saved to God, into community, and sent in mission, namely to give witness to the Kingdom of God. That “giving witness” includes calls to others for personal salvation but it is much bigger than that.



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joanne

posted May 27, 2009 at 11:30 am


I like that wording Michael Kruse.



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John W Frye

posted May 27, 2009 at 11:51 am


Chris’ question and Joanned’s and Michael’s answer highlight the repeated observation by NT Wright that opponents who say they have read his works really haven’t. The NPP takes nothing away from the OPP (Old Pauline Perspective) but sets the OPP in a much more coherently biblical and theological framework.



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joanne

posted May 27, 2009 at 12:13 pm


I agree… it’s (OPP) kind of like getting only half of the teaching.
And looking at scripture in the context of the whole story as Wright does so well, gives us that perspective.



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Joey

posted May 27, 2009 at 12:25 pm


Who’s down with OPP?



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:mic

posted May 27, 2009 at 12:36 pm


Joy (14)
That’s awesome.



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david yates

posted May 27, 2009 at 3:20 pm


John (#7, #12)
Wright claims to be reading Gal 2:15-21 in the context of Peter’s behaviour Gal 2.11-14, and so argues everything must have no other reference than that. In other places where Paul addresses problems in congregations, Wright says Paul laudably goes back to first principles to explain things. I think the same applies here, and Gal 2:15-21 is a first principles argument against Peter. I think Wright’s exegesis fails on the points I make in #2. What about the point I make about Gal 2.19? As for Gal 2.21, I find it very strange to say that is either about lack of graciousness or is a cry of freedom, it makes no communicational sense to me for such a wording to be saying that. So, I think Gal 2.15-21 is about sin, not about markers.



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ChrisB

posted May 27, 2009 at 5:25 pm


I appreciate everyone’s responses, but in which NPP book will I find that spelled out?



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Andrew

posted May 27, 2009 at 6:07 pm


I am not a NPP advocate, but this quote of Wright’s really says nothing new nor adds anything to a position held by, say, John Calvin. All (confessing) Reformed Christians would agree that “the theology of Paul is about how God’s covenant with Abraham to bless the world has found its fulfillment in Jesus Christ.” This is perhaps THE very tenet of Reformed theology: The unity of the covenant of grace (New covenant is part of the Abrahamic) and Christ’s federal covenant headship (fulfillment of the Law in Christ).
What is nearly impossible to read, however, is that personal/human sin is not included in Galatians 3:10-14. (“Even the curse passage (3:10-14) is connected — not to human sin — but to the inclusion of Gentiles in Abraham’s blessing and that we might receive this promise on the basis of faith.”)
Who experiences “the curse of the law” if not sinners under God’s wrath? The “curse of the law” is not that promise would not come by it, but rather through faith. This is clear because Paul immediately clarifies the curse of the law which Christ bore: death on a cross/tree. Paul includes himself and all believing Jews in this by means of the inclusive “became a curse for US” as separate from mention of the Gentiles.



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