New Perspective on Paul and The Future of Justification

I love Doug Wilson’s blog. I think its intelligent, hilarious, and helpful. Recently, Wilson has been reading and blogging through John Piper’s new book, The Future of Justification. The book is Piper’s response to NT Wright, a brilliant scholar and Bishop in the Anglican church, who is a proponent of what is called the New Perspective on Paul (NPP).

Although I have listened to multiple lectures on NPP, I still don’t understand it very well. I only know that:
1. NPP is a title that encompasses multiple similar viewpoints about Paul the apostle. These new perspectives are mainly concerned with how to best understand what Paul meant when he talked about “justification.”
2. It revolves around EP Sander’s thesis that Jews during the New Testament period (aka: Second Temple Judaism) did not believe in “salvation by works,” as Protestantism has long believed, but rather they believed in “salvation by grace” much like evangelical Christians now believe. This means that there must be a redefinition of what Paul meant by “justification,” a doctrine of fundamental importance to Christianity.
3. I have been told that there are some similarities between NPP and another movement called Federal Vision, of which Doug Wilson is a key proponent. Hence, my interest in Wilson’s responses to Piper’s book. To be fair, I know nothing whatsoever about Federal Vision theology, I’ve only heard from others that there are common sympathies between them.
4. Evangelical leaders are being quite vocal about the fact that they they think NPP is wrong in a way that is dangerous to the truth of the gospel.

All the rest is fuzzy to me. It doesn’t help that the arguments and explanations are often very dense and quite nuanced in their disagreements. So, I’ve decided to read through Piper’s book, read Wilson’s responses, and “blog through it” (which is something like sharing your feelings online for therapeutic purposes). I hope that in doing so I can understand NPP and the Federal Vision better.

Disclaimer of bias: To be honest, I take the warnings that I’ve heard about NPP very seriously and so I enter this project open-minded, but not without wariness. Why would I ignore the warnings of so many men who are wiser than I am and have studied this more than I have? Everyone has their presuppositions, those are mine. I endeavor not to let them be a hinderance to an honest and compassionate evaluation of NPP.

Disclaimer of ignorance: If anything I said above about NPP or anything else is wrong, please correct me, I’m anxious to get this right. Thanks!


2 responses to “New Perspective on Paul and The Future of Justification

  1. Yes. I have been interested to see what many people have said on Paul. Any reconstruction of first century judaism is dangerous because we know so little about it and it was quite diverse. There probably were some Jews who did believe in Yahweh’s salvation by grace. I am only getting my feet wet as well, but it is something that is REALLY worth looking into.

  2. The Federal Vision and NPP have nothing to do with each other. The only thing that connects them is that they are coming to the forefront in parts of the Reformed community at the same time. For instance, the PCA recently passed an awfully written study on the NPP and FV not because they are similar, but because they are issues that arose at the same time.

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