Covenantal Nomism in the New Perspective on Paul: Part 4

This is the final part of the series “Covenantal Nomism in the New Perspective on Paul.” To read the introductory post, click here.

Conclusion

This series [originally written as an essay] has attempted to list the basic tenets of the New Perspective on Paul, and then focused on one particular aspect of those tenets: the idea that Second Temple Judaism was a religion that believed in salvation by grace, not by obedience to works of the law.

While there are numerous aspects to the New Perspective, this aspect, often covered in the idea of covenantal nomism, is the chief pillar of the New Perspective on Paul. If it can be shown to be false, the entire system crumbles.

The larger problem with the New Perspective is that when this view is fully embraced as the contextual lens for reading the Pauline epistles, that the impact on the meaning of those texts is profound. The New Perspective ultimately moves the biblical concept of justification from a soteriological concept to an ecclesiological concept. As has been demonstrated, this is exactly the position of the advocates of the New Perspective.

The doctrine of justification was the material cause of the Protestant Reformation because it has been understood to be essential to the gospel itself.[1] The New Perspective on Paul undermines this doctrine. Because of its significant and, in the view of some, detrimental effect on the gospel, the New Perspective on Paul ought to be closely examined.

It is the view of this essay that when the New Perspective is weighed against the biblical evidence, it fails on multiple accounts, most critically in the idea that covenantal nomism, rather than legalism, that Paul was addressing in his letters such as Romans and Galatians. As a result, the New Perspective on Paul should be rejected as a view compatible with the classic Protestant position on the doctrine of justification.

By Justin Nash

(Justin Nash serves as Director of Church Health & Communications for the Advent Christian General Conference)

References

[1] R.C. Sproul, Faith Alone: The Evangelical Doctrine of Justification, (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1995), 21.

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