New Perspective 5

The crux of the fierce criticism of the New Perspective on Paul is what I will call an Augustinian anthropology. Here me out because I think this is behind nearly every criticism I’m hearing of the NPP, and many times I’m not hearing that it is this that is actually prompting the criticism.
Behind the Reformation is Augustine; behind much of modern evangelicalism, especially in the Reformed circles today, is the Reformation. Therefore, at the bottom of the evangelical movement in the Reformed circles is Augustine and his anthropology. The New Perspective, by and large, probably does not adopt a fully Augustinian anthropology but it is rare that such an issue arises in the discussion. At times I hear the NPP doesn’t have an adequate theory of sin — well, I think NPP would say “Neither does the Reformation. So there!” So, let’s dig into this just a bit today and see if we can shed some light on the NPP and help us all.

What is Augustine’s anthropology? (I’m no specialist on this, but this is how I understand it. Experts chime in.)
1. Humans are born in original sin.
2. Humans are bound to their sinful natures.
3. Humans have an incurable itch to justify themselves and seek merit.
4. But humans cannot please God because they are bound to those sinful natures that cannot please God.
5. Humans are therefore “naturally” condemned before God.
6. They are in need of God’s awakening grace and new life — through the Holy Spirit.
7. The only way out of this condition of self-justification and merit-seeking is to surrender that selfish, proud self-image and cast oneself on God in the mercy of Christ through the regenerating power of the Spirit.
[A friend and colleague, an Augustinian scholar, reworks my points into this:
I think Augustine would agree to some form of each of the statements you have listed. However, I don’t think it quite gets at the core of Augustine’s thoughts or concerns. or to put it differently, it identifies Augustine’s positions as they emerged in his debate with Pelagians and not so much with the rest of his thought.
I think he always remained a rhetorician rather than a systematic thinker, so the images he employs are often more fundamental than an abstract statement of his doctrine. In the Confessions, the guiding image is that of the prodigal son (kind of overlaid on some semi-Plotinian metaphysics). I don’t think Augustine’s first word in his anthropology is “sin”. I think it is “love.” Sin is just love gone bad — as evil is good gone bad. So maybe to rephrase it, using the vocabulary of the earlier Augustine.
1. Humans, like God, are lovers.
2 and 3. Humans though are bad lovers, redirecting their love from God to the good things God made. This creates in them disordered desires.
4. Humans have become incapable of loving God for himself (instead of themselves) and loving other things “in” God.
5. Humans are incapable of being happy, like the prodigal son who exchanged his father’s table for eating husks with the pigs.
Each of these elements shapes the Reformers’ perception of the gospel, salvation, and how to understand Paul. But there is more…
Standing next to Augustine’s anthropology is the way to attack the human [is this too strong?] in preaching the gospel: show that human that they are selfish, merit-seeking people who are in need of seeing their sinfulness and need of grace. Show them they need to trust and give up on their own works. The starting point for Reformed gospel preaching is an anthropology; that anthropology for many is Augustinian; that anthropology is pure selfishness.
The Law factors into this as far as I can tell in this way: the Law is how corrupted humans seek to earn favor with God; they climb the Law to find their way to God.
But, Paul is interpreted to say that’s not the way; that way is legalism and death. The gospel, which this view tends to pit over against the Law in the severest of ways, is the way to redemption — through grace, by faith, and faith alone.
If the New Perspective teaches — rightly or not — that neither the opponents of Paul nor Jews in general were merit-seeking humans, then the central foil of the gospel — how to understand the human condition and how to attack human nature — is undercut and the entire framework of the gospel is changed. Thus, the critics of the New Perspective are aiming at the soteriological framework of the NPP that they (critics) have assumed to be right, that they have inherited from Calvin-Luther-Augustine, and which they believe was at the heart of Paul’s theology. I am not saying that all of the Reformed contention here is what I sometime ago called “grace grinding” (talking about grace but doing so only to grind a human into selfish dust), but what I am saying that the Reformed tradition operates with a self-conscious anthropology that derives from Augustine (who provided an interpretive grid for the NT texts).
Stendahl and Sanders laid blame on Luther for seeing in the Judaizers the Roman Catholic Church. That may or may not be the case. What to me is the case is that the real opponent of Paul for the old perspective is not the Catholic Church but Pelagius. NPP folks need to harp less on Luther and his Catholic polemic and start focusing on Augustine and Pelagius. Did Augustine get it right? Did Augustine get it right when he saw in Pelagius the human condition writ large?
The question is this: Was this the anthropology of Paul? Of Judaism? of the Old Testament? Was Paul’s gospel shaped by this anthropology?
There are, of course, other elements, and one of them is central and I’d beg you to listen to this one: if one finds an element or two in the NPP inaccurate that does not mean that the whole thing has to be tossed overboard. I’m seeing far too many “all or nothing” approaches to this issue — from both sides.

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  • Thanks Scot. The tendency to idolize Augustine and presuppose his anthropology needs to be seriously questioned. I think you’re right on this and would take it further. Many theological positions presuppose an anthropology that is taken for granted, but it rarely surfaces in the discussion. Questions should arise here that often don’t, as you well point out. The responses to your four questions towards the end of the post would seem to be, not likely.
    Perhaps, the more work that is done on the seven points you mention will shed new light on some of these issues. Fortunately, whether we agree or not, NPP has been stirring things up, which has resulted in the attempt to find a fitting or even better biblical perspective.

  • Patrick

    Augustine seems to start with fallen human beings, and the first thing to do after that is get people to hate their fallenness, but is this the right starting point? As I understand the Greek church fathers (from Irenaeus–“the glory of God is the fully alive human being”–to the Cappadocians and beyond) their starting point is the dynamic of Trinitarian love, and the first thing to do is to show its attractiveness. No doubt we need both push and pull, but to focus on forensic justification at the expense of participation “in Christ” is surely a mistake that the NPP may help us avoid.

  • Tim Gombis

    I’ve had this experience several times now–I’ll walk through a careful exegesis of Gal 3, Rom 3, or Phil 3 with a friend, showing them a reading that is more satisfying to the details of the text and to a biblical theology that takes the OT seriously, and their knee-jerk response is to resist with an appeal to the broad contours of an Augustinian anthropology as you’ve described.
    This may be a bit weird, but I’ve also noticed that there’s a certain personality type that holds tenaciously to this Augustianian vision of humanity–the achievement-oriented first-born child who naturally has a strong sense of guilt, and is keenly aware of their own failures. To talk with such folks about corporate sin, cosmic sin, redemption as crossing over social and racial boundaries, etc., is to speak a different language. All they can think of is redemption as relief from the intense personal/psychological guilt arising from one’s own failures (which is not outside the scope of the gospel, I admit). This is quite a broad-brush, I know, but it’s been repeated enough times that I’ve seen something of a pattern.

  • Your descriptions of the controversy and its background definitely ring true to me.
    This reminds me of an observation I have made numerous times: for most conservative evangelicals and reformed folks, the “Solas” (and more generally, the way they understand the reformation heritage) are more central than Scripture.
    I have for a long time wondered how this differs fundamentally from the RC view which sees the approved tradition as more central than Scripture.

  • Bob Postiff

    Scot, good conclusion to your series. NT Wright and the NPP is needed. The issue I have with him is the perceived muting or neglect of the works/righteousness or Pelagian thought that is in Romans and Galations. The common layperson on the street will read Romans and Galations with an Augustine viewpoint. Part of the Protestant Reformation was getting the bible into the layperson’s hand. God’s Word mediated through the Holy Spirit alone. I think the word is “perspicuity”. Now it seems like that NT Wright and others say “here is what the bible actually means”. It puts the power or authority into the theologian’s hand. Like the RC church in the 16th century mediating through the priestly sacraments. I’m starting my kids off in “Jesus loves you” then works/righteousness and then NPP. I think mature christianity has to move beyond black and white and into NPP somehow.

  • Bob,
    I’m not so sure about how you speak here of NT Wright. If anything, Wright has done a marvelous job of speaking in ordinary terms to make how he understands the Bible clear to ordinary people. For years we had very few — read almost no — scholars who were willing to risk their reputation to write for lay people.

  • Scott M

    Thanks Scot. While I would not have used the term “Augustinian anthropology” or anthropology at all in this context, I’m never been able to make sense of the interpretive framework you describe. (And Tim, I’m a bundle of contradictions. I’m a first-born, achievement-oriented person and an INFP (heavy spike on N and P) personality type. Make sense of that.) Lately, I’ve been discovering discussions and works, mostly from the Orthodox perspective, on a Trinitarian anthropology. And that one seems to fit much more easily than the Augustinian framework. In a lot of ways it describes the interpretive grid I was already using. Yes, I think Augustine rather over-stated his case in reaction against Pelagius.
    Part of this flows I think, my cultural shaping by pluralism. Unless you start with a picture of a personal God who must be pleased in order to achieve some reward, the whole Augustinian framework collapses. In Buddhism, for instance, which does not have a concept of a personal god and which does not really require a “god” per se, at all, the passion to achieve personal merit and recognition would be seen as part of the problem. In Hinduism, Brahman is also not a personal god. Even the devas, which are more personal, represent so many different paths, the Augustinian anthropology doesn’t even make sense. Older pagan religions, even when they contained the idea of personal merit, typically defined it in ways wildly different from anything we would expect from the Christian God. There were certainly various ideas of personal merit and favor with the Norse gods, for instance, but that anthropology looks nothing like Augustine’s.
    I would also tend to say that the anthropology of Judaism is shaped more by the call of Abraham, the rescue of God’s people in the Exodus, and Torah than anything that fits inside Augustine’s framework.

  • Scott M,
    And I would add that many would say Augustine turned the Christian faith into personal religion by developing autobiography as he did. I think this is an overstatement, but it needs to be said in an over-individualistic age.

  • Scot,
    Thank you so much for your summaries of this discussion. I waded through much of Mark Mattison’s site and became quickly inundated with so much that it became difficult to hold everything together. Your posts have been both a breath of fresh air and immensely informative.
    My comment/question deals with one of the methodological points you mentioned. I am right there with you on the “problem” of essentially doing evangelism with an Augustinian anthropological bent–i.e., that people “are selfish, merit-seeking people who are in need of seeing their sinfulness and need of grace . . .”. It seems as though this tactic is what elicits the accusation of hypocrisy from those within “secular” culture. Would you think this is a fair observation?
    The reason I ask is because one of the primary goals of my thesis research is to tease out what Paul was doing with the gospel message. My argument is that the message proper was given as an explanation for his newfound life in Christ. Thus, his life was (dare I say, an “incarnation” of) the gospel, which became a presentation in and of itself (this, to me, makes better sense of I Peter 3.15). It seems as though that the message proper was given when his “person” was questioned. Once given, the message and the life lived created a harmony that was able to counter the hypocritical charge.
    There’s more to my theory, but we’ll start with this for now.

  • Carl,
    I’m not sure the hypocrisy charge is related that much to the Augustinian anthropology. It’s practice vs. claim, regardless of one’s anthropology. That anthropology, though, ought to create deep humility that could not be charged with hypocrisy.
    This thesis is a little pushy for me: surely the experience gave rise at times to explanation but there is lots involved in Paul’s rhetorical contexts (we call them “exigencies” at times).

  • Scott M

    Bob, I would also challenge the idea that the common layperson would read Romans and Galatians from the perspective of an Augustinian anthropology unless they had been culturally shaped to read it that way. I certainly never did. And there are more like me and fewer like the “common layperson” you describe every day. If you have been shaped by that anthropology by your culture, whether you are a Christian or not, then you will read Romans and Galatians through the interpretive grid of that anthropology. But if you aren’t, you won’t. Simple as that.

  • rob

    The question is this: Was this the anthropology of Paul? Of Judaism? of the Old Testament? Was Paul’s gospel shaped by this anthropology?
    Excellent questions! Can someone more astute than I take a shot at these? I came to faith under an Augustinian view of original/personal sin/guilt. What does another view look like?

  • Scot,
    Your summaries of the issues have been very helpful. The “all or nothing” rhetoric on both sides bothers me too. I have never thought about how this discussion is so heavily influenced by Augustine. Thanks for pointing me in a new direction.

  • Scott Watson

    In the West “Augustinian” anthropology seems natural, but in terms of historical theology,his views were novel.His anthropological views were not shared by the Eastern Fathers. And today,we would not be having this discussion in an Eastern Orthodox theological context. Even though they see salvation as “synergistic” they aren’t Pelagian or semi-Pelagain b/c their theological anthropology is different. Augustinian thought leads to all kinds of antimonies.Is Romans 8:13 semi-Pelagian?
    At another level, Elaine Pagels in ‘Adam, Eve and the Serpent’ does an excellent job in contextualizing socio-cultural factors in the time (eg, the chaos of the crumbling of the western Roman Empire)to help us understand why Augustine’s views were so persuasive to the general populace. And we all know about his own personal struggles with his desires and sense of inner chaos. This is a potent mix which resonates at a deep level with people at a psycho-spiritual level (as it did with Martin Luther); but the real issue is this:does it do justice to Paul’s Jewish anthropology and the issues he was addressing in his letters? No!

  • rob

    This appears to have gotten lost the first time I tried to post, so I’ll try again.
    The question is this: Was this the anthropology of Paul? Of Judaism? of the Old Testament? Was Paul’s gospel shaped by this anthropology?
    Excellent questions! I came to faith and was shaped under an Augustinian view of sin/guilt. Can someone more astute than I address the above questions? What does a different anthropology look like?

  • Josh

    On the comment by Bob,
    I think it matters who the common “layperson” is. Many in Western culture have been brought up in church hearing this kind of anthropology. There is much truth to it but it is not the whole truth. Holding it as a primary assumption as one reads the text can really skewer interpretation.
    I think it is interesting that John Wesley has already been through this journey. Maybe he is the original NPP man. Luther’s commentary may have provoked Wesley’s Aldersgate experience but later in life, on a coach ride, Wesley read the commentary itself for the first time and commented that he had always extolled the book but found that it was illogical and consisted of poor scholarship and study. A lot of just reaction to the RCC along with Erasmus and humanism(Enlightenment version). I thank God for Luther and his courage and I am sure that Wesley did to. But Wesley was an Oxford don and had been trained as a scholar to let the texts speak for themselves.
    I also find it interesting that Wesley’s studies took him back further than Augustine. He found a different anthropology in the earlier church fathers. They did believe that man had a free will and could do much good and much evil. But unlike Pelagius, they knew that it was an all-loving God that sought them, not them pulling up their boot straps and finding him. One must respond to the grace offered but the ultimate source of salvation was the Great Shepherd searching for his lost sheep.
    Not everything in the NPP is correct nor is it a consensus. But I like people like Sanders, Wright, and Dunn have helped us to challenge some of our own assumptions against the light of scripture and history. And God knows we need those challenges.

  • Scot,
    I heartily agree with your last paragraph here. It gives words to something that bothers me greatly about so much of contemporary conservative evangelicalism in general, this all or nothing attitude and the inability to take anything good from the views of those we may have some disagreement with. So we end up only listening to he voices of those who already agree with us 100% and our view of God’s world becomes very small. We become insular and rigid and defensive and uncharitable. It really distresses me.

  • Scott Watson

    For a different(a polemical non-Augustinian) reading of Pauline anthropology,check out this paper by the late Fr. John Romanides,who served as Prof. of Dogmatics at the University of Thessalonike.

  • RJS

    Bob (#5) I agree with Scott M. (#11). The protestant lay-person only reads Romans and Galatians through the lens of this Augustinian anthropology because of exposure to this theology directly and indirectly through preaching etc. – one kind of cultural conditioning. Galatians and Romans themselves are much more complex and nuanced.
    Pagels analysis is interesting, but seems to go a bit overboard – influenced as well by her concerns and issues.
    I find it interesting that Sola Scriptura seems to presuppose an agreement to interpret in the Augustinian framework, while questioning other earlier or roughly contemporary interpretations.

  • Sam

    Dear Scot,
    It seems you are saying different views of a “fallen” person (and perhaps community and creation as well) underlie some of the disagreements between NPP proponents and its critics.
    I know you did a series a while back on atonement and explored some of this. I am wondering if you had come across any reading materials that you may be willing to suggest on the Biblical use of “sin” (and, even perhaps, “evil”). I know I can’t bypass conversation on this among the believers (including Augustine) over the past two thousand years if I want to learn anything. Nonetheless, I wonder if there is an accessible treatment of the Biblical notion of “sin” that tries to be true to the Biblical data and is open and honest about its own biases and influences, to get me started.
    – Sam

  • Sam,
    I have a book coming out this week or next, A Community called Atonement, and I have a brief chapter on sin.
    My top recommendation is by someone Reformed, but I think he is more expansive than most, and is by Plantinga, Not the Way It’s Supposed to Be.

  • Hum, at Westminster Theological Seminary one of our professors in the Old Testament Department – Doug Green – has contributed two things that I think may soften the antithesis your setting up Scot (note to others, I’m from a Reformed Theological position so the sting of Scot’s suggestion stricks me dead on).
    THE FIRST contribution: Doug has written a piece on NT Wright back in 04 that shows that far from Wright having to be ostracized by Reformed or Augustinian minded Christians he should actually be appreciated, click the link here;
    The two areas Doug points at for continuity and shared interest is Wrights focus on Historia Salutis or Redemptive Historical argumentation and Wrights focus upon union with Christ.
    THE SECOND contribution: Doug has made toward softened this antithesis is by acknowledging in his theological labor in the Psalms a deep kingly strand of teaching in regards to human anthropology. Doug would challenge us by asking us whether we are ‘worms’ or ‘kings’. His answer was that we’re both but that in Reformed circles there has traditional been an overuse of the ‘worms’ anthropology.
    I think you’re right that there are Augustinian issues involved in the critical agenda of Reformed traditions as they engage the NPP but I also think that as Doug Green has made clear there situation is more involved than just ‘those who like Augustine and those who were only predisposed against him’.
    That would not only mean that Reformed Christians didn’t like the NPP because of their theology but that Anabaptist or Arminian or Weslyian Christians like the NPP because of its support of their own tradition, because lets get real how many people are reading DSS or the Pseudepigrapha or Philo or Josephus or the Hebrew Bible.
    I think Scot we could all be honest and just acknowledge that for the average reader its their community, their own self-understanding of their predisposed theology, and their under exposure to 2nd Temple Literature that causes them to banner in either direction on the matter, not to mention the genuine desire to understand the NT in light of the OT which Wright does a wonderful job on for so many of us…
    My two cents for what they’re worth. Really enjoying this series man, Tony

  • Since this discussion often drifts into historical theology (as it does here), have any NPP scholars interacted with the thesis in Thomas Oden’s “Justification Reader?” He argues for a consensus in the first 5 centuries among the Fathers on “justification” and says that they anticipated the Reformation teaching.
    The reason this is important is that it would change the questions being asked. Instead of asking, “Did Luther or Augustine get it right?” the NPP would have to ask, “Did the first 5 centuries get it right?” This raises the burden of proof. It simply won’t do to debunk Luther or Augustine. You’ve also got to deal with a unified body of Christian teaching on justification. If, of course, Oden’s thesis is right.

  • T

    Thanks for showing the strong connection between the anthropology and the historic evangelical ‘plan of attack’ for giving the ‘good news.’ It always bothered me growing up in my part of the evangelical world, that I didn’t see the ‘plan of attack’ actually used by Jesus and the apostles very much if at all.
    That highlights for me one of the strengths of the NP by contrast–it tends to produce a ‘plan’ for announcing the good news that looks much more like what Jesus and the apostles (including Paul) actually did and said on the whole. The focus of the ‘announcement’ is on Jesus, the King, the Teacher, the whole of him–who he is and what he’s doing–rather than on any particular anthropology. Certainly there are some who will need to be knocked off their high horse before they can have ears to hear. But there are many who won’t need any more ‘bad news’ about humanity or themselves in particular before being able to appreciate the good news about Christ as truly good. At least that is the case in much of Jesus’ own work.
    Good post.

  • In my NT survey in seminary we mentioned the NPP, but didn’t have the time to get too far into it. I was left wondering what it exactly is despite hearing Dunn lecture and reading some Wright. This series is very helpful. Thank you for writing on this issue.

  • Todd A. Robinson

    Augustinian or not, according to Wright, there IS indeed “bad news” that begs for a remedy, especially in the 1 C. Israel context. For if Israel was still in “exile” (now under Rome and the satan), then that was, as always, a result of “sin” (corporate, yes, but sin/faithlessness nonetheless). Wright’s emphasis on continued exile, for me, buys us more (not less) than what we thought before w/regards to “plight”.
    Therefore, among the many other blessings (NB!), “forgiveness of sins” was promised through YHWH’s prophets (Jer 31) as one importante answer to “exile”. When YHWH returns to Zion, and the Kingdom is restored, Israel will be forgiven her sins, sprinkled clean with water, and Spirit-empowered for fidelity to the one true God and to be a blessing for the Nations.
    And if Israel was in bondage to sin and to the satan, as Paul argues in Eph 2:1-3 and Romans 1-3, then no doubt the Nations too are slaves to sin and in need of eschatological/corporate “redemption, the forgiveness of sins.”
    So, though not necessarily quite the personal-exisitential dilemma we often choose to emphasize, the “Gospel” of God’s Kingdom in Christ/the Spirit IS nonetheless the answer to a critical redemptive-historical dilemma, Sin. There IS indeed a promised forgiveness of sins, first for Israel, and then for the whole world “in Christ.” For “in Him” (as a the Corporate Christ) we (as individuals too) surely have “redemption, the forgiveness of our sins.”

  • Scott M

    Hunter (#21), since I’ve really spent the decade plus that I’ve been in Christianity in a denomination with an Augustinian bent (SBC) and which has constantly said things that simply made no sense to me, I’ve read a lot of the patristics on my own. I do agree there was a general consensus on an anthropological and theological perspective. (The big disagreements on major issues got worked out in councils. A lot of leeway was left inside those boundary markers.) I haven’t read Oden’s paper, but it strikes me that it would take some major mental gymnastics to believe that the consensus view on anything that could be separately labeled justification looked much like the Reformation perspective. That’s certainly not what I took from them.
    And Tony (#20), not all of us come to the table with particular Christian preconceptions directing our interpretive frameworks. I’ve only recently, and largely due to Scot, discovered that the Eastern Church understands at least some of the central facets of the faith much the way I had understood them from scripture and the patristics. It doesn’t really change where I am, but it has made me feel less isolated and strange that I could not fit within this particular interpretive framework.

  • Eine neue Perspektive at

    […] “The New Perpective on Paul” – was ist das? Diese Frage beantwortete Scot McKnight diese Woche in fünf Einträgen auf seinem vielgelesenen Blog Jesus Creed: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5. DoSi wies schon vor ein paar Tagen darauf hin und schrieb einige Gedanken dazu unter dem vielsagenden Titel Ein blinder Fleck der evangelischen Theologie? Zumindest DoSis Gedanken sollte jeder lesen… Viel Material dazu (und anderen spannenden Themen) findet man auch auf der N.T. Wright Page. […]

  • Josh

    I for one would like to read Oden’s thesis. But I wonder if it is in opposition to the NPP. I am not an expert on the Reformation but what I understand is that Luther was in opposition to the corrupt practices that allowed people to “atone” for their sins through payments to the church (something like Benny Hinn). I know Luther argued hard with the RC Erasmus over the issue of free will and depravity.
    The Reformation rightly said that Christ is the justifier of God’s people. There are a ton of things that it corrected and some it over corrected.
    To the best of my knowledge, I don’t think anyone who holds to the NPP would say that people do not enter the fold of God’s people by faith. It’s what has always distinguished who God’s people are.
    Was all Israel the people of God? Not according to Paul. It was only those who kept the covenant and did not follow false gods. Were any of God’s people perfect? no. That’s why their was sacrifice for people’s sin so that they could live with God. When Christ came, he offered the ultimate sacrifice that did not simply atone for individual sins like those in the Old Covenant. Christ’s death atoned for SIN. It reversed the curse on creation and began a new age of regeneration. It will be finalized on Christ’s return when he rids the cosmos of all things evil and dwells with man again.
    The problem with the whole Augustian thing is that it shrouds the rest of the Bible’s grand narrative. For many, it functions as a metanarrative by which they interpret the whole thing. It’s pretty depressing too.

  • One For The Christians at Zoomtard

    […] Scot McKnight, no slowcoach himself has done a great little mini-series that explains in a way that I understand, the “New Perspective” that the Bishop of Durham allegedly advances. He does it fairly too. If that whets your appetite, Christianity Today have a bigger treatment on it this month. […]

  • Oden was not writing with the NPP in mind. But I find it interesting that his thesis has application to the historical question of “how has the church understood Paul’s justification language?”
    Oden’s main goal is ecumenical – to move dialogue between Catholics and Protestants from the Reformation to the Patristics. Furthermore, Oden is not a Calvinist. He’s a Methodist (Arminian, I would guess?).
    If we’re honest, much of the NPP appeals to people who resent the hegemony of Augustine, Luther, and Calvin (just look at some of the comments above). And it is often rejected by people who want to protect those men. Oden’s thesis moves the discussion beyond these polarizing figures and frames it in the context of the entire church, helping us to see that “justification” isn’t just a Reformed issue; it’s a Christian issue.

  • Michael Mercer

    Scot, thanks for a very helpful series. And today’s post may be the most helpful of all. I’ve been thinking about these issues as I’ve read Wright, even though I’ve been (happily!) unaware of most of the controversy. One question with regard to the merit approach—doesn’t the parable of the Pharisee and the tax-collector (Luke 18:9-14) at least show that some of the problem within Judaism in Jesus’ time was the tendency to exalt oneself before God as deserving of his approval?

  • Jason

    You said, “If the New Perspective teaches — rightly or not — that neither the opponents of Paul nor Jews in general were merit-seeking humans, then the central foil of the gospel — how to understand the human condition and how to attack human nature — is undercut and the entire framework of the gospel is changed.”
    I’m sure that for some steeped in the conversation and the study of its major contributors are tracking with you… But as I said earlier in the week… I am a novice at this…
    So, I’d like for you to maybe elaborate on HOW? the framework of the gospel is changed.

  • Christine

    Christianity Today’s website posted a number of references today to NPP.

  • Josh

    Hey Scot,
    I have been brooding over this for some time and I wonder what you think.
    When I first became a Christian, I saw a major difference between Jesus’ message in the gospels and the message in Paul’s epistles. Jesus desires repentance, self-denial, and discipleship. Paul argues that getting to heaven requires only faith (quite vague) and that those Jews who are trying to obey all the Law(as the OT commanded) are wrong. Is it just me or isn’t something screwy here. I understand why there are so many books out there that pit Jesus against Paul.
    But what if when Paul talks about “my gospel,” he is actually talking about the good news of Jesus Christ in the same framework as the Gospel writers. That’s a novel idea, huh? The more I read Paul, the more I see that the core of his theology is the message that is present in the synoptics, Pentecost, and the eschatological coming in of the Gentiles to worship the One True God.

  • Scott M

    Michael (#28), one of my favorite images! Over the course of my Christian journey, as I reflected on the various commands to pray without ceasing, Brother Lawrence and the Practice of the Presence of God, and passages like the Lukan parable you cite led me to adopt variations of the tax-collector’s prayer as one of my more common breath prayers. I had absolutely no clue until I read Scot’s “Praying with the Church” a year ago that it was one of the oldest prayer traditions of the church! (Thanks, Scot. That was one of those jaw-dropping moments for me.)
    However, if I understand what you are asking, I don’t think it says what you are proposing about Judaism. The Pharisee was not trying to achieve merit with God. Rather, he was thanking God that he was “in” unlike those others. And as Jesus does so often with his discussions of the Kingdom, he makes the point that those who think they are in often aren’t while those who do not believe they are find themselves included. In this one I see Jesus clearly saying that if your status as one of the presumed members of God’s people (and the Pharisee was certainly one of those) does not produce an attitude of love and service to all others, especially those whom you would normally believe are excluded, then your certainty that you are part of God’s people might be misplaced.
    I can’t say how much that would or wouldn’t line up with the way a second temple Jew would hear the story, but it probably does reveal more about my interpretive grid.

  • Scott M

    Josh, I would suggest you do a simple biblegateway word search on “gospel” in the Pauline Epistles and carefully read the context of every reference that isn’t simply a reference to the gospel or good news without any explanation of what this is. Pay close attention to what Paul actually says the good news is. You may be surprised.

  • replying to Scot M (#25),
    Good point, not everyone is working from a theological tradition, and those that are differ in how monolithic that particular traditions impact on them is. That being said I think its invaluable for peopel like myself who are from the tradition Scot’s post was directed at to speak up and seek to show a sense of diversity otherwise the assumption readers could get here is that if one is Reformed or Augustinian then one must reject out of hand the NPP or NPJ which as Doug Green was an example is not the case.
    I think more than the historical question of Augustine, Luther, Calvin etc.; the larger thing driving leaders in my community is a predisposition for systematic over biblical theology as they do their exegesis than just theological agendas. For instance Scot I’ve seen guys even give defences for not situating the NT in a 2nd Temple Context or the OT in an ANE context…that to me is a hermeneutical proclivity not a anthropological decission.

  • PS I might add either of those decisions moves in a non-sola scriptura direction. Thanks for making that clear in this series Scot McKnight, well said. Thanks Scot M for the reply to my previous post.

  • Scott M

    Well, I certainly wouldn’t want to attempt to impose homogenity on any group. 😉 And I’m not exactly a systematic sort of person in most contexts and rarely in the way I approach the Christian text. But isn’t a hermeneutic simply another part of our interpretive framework? So perhaps it’s not just anthropology (I throw that word around even though I haven’t quite figured out what it means in this context) or hermeneutic or any other piece of that interpretive framework, but rather the whole shebang. And the more mine differs from yours, the more differently I’ll read the text. The question then becomes, how do we know which interpretation and which framework is more in line with the way the text should be understood? I’m not entirely sure what the distinction is between a systematic theologian and a biblical theologian, but it seemed like your were saying the systematic theologian makes the historical context secondary while the biblical theologian tries to make their particular system secondary to the judgment of history as best as we can reconstruct it. Does that sound accurate?

  • Josh

    Scott M,
    I don’t know if you are really getting me. I would think that the synoptic gospels along with the OT (the source for the NT’s vocabulary) made up the central message of the early church. Although there were undoubtedly various aspects of this core that were emphasized in different congregations, this was the gospel of the church.
    When I read Paul I see it all the time. The cenrality of love as the church’s life in 1 cor. (Jesus creed); The reference to citizenship in heaven in Ephesians with Jesus’ proclamation that the Kindom of Heaven had arrived; the taking up of a collection in 2 Cor. for Jerusalem couched in the OT prophecy that the Gentiles would pour their wealth into Jerusalem. It’s everywhere.
    I just think that the Augustian view doesn’t handle the texts well. It pits Paul against Jesus and that’s just wrong.

  • BeckyR

    I am just now entering the discussion on this series so excuse me if my comments are old stuff.
    I’ve been thinking that direction too, Patrick, #2. If the starting point is God’s love. Up till lately I’ve carried the idea that we deserve spiritual and physical death and it is Jesus’ death on the cross that saves us from death. What I’ve been musing over lately is I’m not sure there’s even condemnation, now. I’m not sure God rejects us. I’m wondering if that’s our own psychological stuff we lay on it all. I am thinking there are consequences for our Sin, that is, Sin nature out of which come sins. But I’m not sure the consequences are condemnation. If God loves us and woos us to him, where does rejection fit in there.
    Tim, #3 – are we guilty of the sins we have done, and if we are guilty and recognize it, is it reality that we would feel guilt over our moral failing. I see that differnt than psychological guilt.
    And for those who recognize me as a past contributor on Scot’s place here – Hi! I’m baaack! I had a spinal fusion almost a month ago, then hell from miscommunication from the dr on how to use the pain pills, then hell from withdrawal from them. The last few days I’ve got back on aolid ground and hope and pray (and beg) it will only continue to get more and more solid. It is a big deal that I can be here to read Jesus Creed today.
    Hi Scot!

  • RJS

    I’m glad things are going better and you are back. I had missed your comments of late.

  • Scott,
    I agree that the NPP needs to interact more with Augustine and not just Luther, as Luther was generally Augustinian in his anthropology/soteriology. But I wonder if your portrayal of Augustine (7 points above) reflects more Luther than Augustine.
    From my reading of the two, Augustine has a much gentler anthropology than Luther (and thus is a lot less angry than Luther). He focuses on the love of God as the basis for unconditional election, instead of the sovereignty of God and the sinfulness of man (per Luther and Calvin). Further, Augustine is not afraid to state that fallen humans have free will, (which makes for a kinder anthropology). And you don’t hear the “we are worms” type talk from Augustine. Generally, I like Augustine more than Luther. In many respects, they end up in the same spot regarding the necessity of grace–they are both monergists but Augustine has a much nicer way of getting there.
    The awareness that Luther was Augustinian should not lead to the conclusion that Augustine was Lutheran. Much of what I read in the thread above makes me suspicious that some here are throwing out Augustine with the the Lutheran bath water.
    Anyway, thanks for this four part summary on the NP. I appreciate your work and the spirit in which it is done.

  • Scott M

    Josh, I wasn’t defending the tension people see between Jesus and Paul. In fact I’ve personally never seen it. I just think those who create a tension do so because of what they think Paul says is the good news rather than how he actually defines the term himself. I think it was Wright I heard say that Paul is implementing what Jesus has accomplished.

  • Jason,
    The gospel becomes not simply the release from guilt and the forgiveness of sins through the double imputation work of Christ, but an ecclesial, kingdom act of God whereby he restores humans to himself, to themselves, to others, and to the world through the life, death, resurrection of Jesus Christ and the work of the Holy Spirit in the form of a community. Now, my friend, nothing new but the fullness of that expression is what is being heard more today.

  • Josh,
    That’s it, yes.

  • Peggy

    I am looking forward to reading all the comments, but I was very interested in what you had to say and gratified that someone is raising the question about Augustine…
    It is a very important thing to know the presuppositions that underlie one’s belief…especially when they are founded on another human’s beliefs! I frequently disagree with Augustine because I don’t think he had a good concept of covenant as context for relationship with God…and this is one of the things that led the reformers (and those who follow the reformers) to miss it as well, IMO.
    It starts with #1–original sin–and goes staight down from there. I don’t hold with the term as it is most often used, especially when it results in the bondage of the will and the inability of humans to make any choice to move toward God.
    Paul’s ministry, as I (in very broad generalities) see it, is the move toward fulfillig the covenant with Abraham that Jesus empowered by his one-for-all sacrifice–the blessing of the nations. Paul saw himself as the Apostle to the Gentiles–even though he was a Hebrew’s Hebrew and a Pharisee’s Pharisee. The bottom line is not that we are horrid, unworthy worms who should wallow in self-disgust–we are Eikons whom God loved enough to send his Son to buy back in a final, everlasting covenant–a covenant with terms and conditions simple as: love God and love others and do this with faithful mercy (hesed) in all times and in all places and in all circumstances.
    It seems to be the difference between the centered set and the bounded set–people want to know who is in and who is out, when we have been told that the point is to be “in Christ”–and this is what I appreciate what I know of NT Wright, that he gets the “in Christ” perspective as central.
    I am sorry to not have had time to read all the comments, and am afraid it will not happen today 🙁 but I am glad I will have the opportunity to do so later.
    I have been mindful of your absence and glad for your return. Praying that things will continue to progress in your healing, sister.

  • Josh

    Hey Scot,
    I just want to tell you I appreciate you illuminating the NPP. It’s really not as controversial as I initially thought. After you put forth the time line of the various authors involved, I thought “hey, this is stuff is kind of old.”
    So, what’s up? Why are people now getting so peevy about it? I can’t remember the denomination(maybe SBC, who knows) but I recently saw a news clip in which they were debating on whether to “ban” the NPP from their churches (and how exactly one does that I don’t know; gettin’ a little Orwellian).
    I’m guessing it’s because the implications are just now beginning to sit in (and really, the implications are relevant to only a minority of christendom, and it’s a good corrective) and it’s popularity is on the rise.
    Anyway, it’s got me prepared for class. Can’t wait to butt heads with RVN!

  • Shea Kirschner

    This is Awesome! I’m so thanful for these post on the new perspective of Paul and everyones perspective that commented. What a great study! God Bless you all. Have a great weekend.

  • I have to wonder if a strong Augustinian (however fair it may be to Augustine) influence on our theology as evangelicals lends itself to our propensity to be so defensive of war. It’s not like wars can be altogether avoided, but when one has the theological mindset that the UN is just a bunch of wicked people, incapable of working out any peaceful situations that are good in any way, etc. I don’t know, but I have to wonder and some of the emphases by the NP may be helpful in seeing that God holds even the unregenerate to account on these matters.
    Though I know this comment is rather beside the point with reference to this good post. But original sin needs to be nuanced quite better to include the eikonic status of all human beings.

  • Daily Round-Up (August 10th, 2007) | Withering Fig

    […] Jesus Creed » New Perspective 5 – This post discusses the role that “Augustinian Anthropology” plays in criticism of the New Perspective. Scot briefly mentions Krister Stendahl here. I find it interesting that some of what Scot is mentioning is found in an article by Stendahl — “Paul and […]

  • Peggy

    Ted…my point exactly about the whole challenge of understanding what is meant by “original sin” and how it lines up with what God says about his Eikons. We are held responsible for our choices–there is no excuse that will get us off the hook.
    Certainly those who hold Eikons as utterly debased and incapable of any good without being regenerated by the Holy Spirit will be less likely to engage in conversation with them–some of them are even unwilling to engage in helpful problem-solving conversation with Christians who do not agree with their interpretation of scripture. It is a conundrum, eh?

  • Scot and all commenters,
    This has been one fascinating discussion.
    Scot, you surprised the heck out of me by moving beyond the justification feature of the NPP to this amazing discussion of anthropology. I think the Augustine-Luther-Calvin anthropology is a sadly reduced, pessimistic version (not that Pelagius got it right). We need a new, biblically-informed robust anthropology shaped by a perichoretic Trinitarian theology. And of course out of this will emerge a new understanding of hamartiology (sin).

  • Peggy, Thanks for the input. Yes. I wonder at our reading of Scripture. We’re so easily beholden to systems rather than being willing to stick by what is written even when we can’t systematize that. Not to be overly simplistic here, but you get my point.

  • Peggy

    John…I’m in, brother.
    Scot…John brought up perichoretic this time 8)
    Ted…I’m an organizational management person by education and experience, so I know something about being beholden to “systems.” This is, for me, the whole issue of organism over organization…people over process…grace over the law…you get my point 😉
    I have three children; system only goes so far because they are all very different and I must treat them differently or I will not be able to help them yearn to see what God might have in store for them and their gifts. What motivates one does not work for the other…I find too many parallels between church life and my preadolescent sons…this is one of the ways I know God has a sense of humor–and sometimes I just want to shout “lighten up” in heavy discussions 8)
    Blessings, all.

  • BeckyR

    And how much our thoughts on these matters are imfluenced by hymns we sing. I like Amazing Grace but I can not sing “wretch.” I don’t think Jesus came to save scum. Sinners, yes. As a friend says, “God didn’t make junk.” And how many other christian songs we may enjoy for the nostalgia, perhaps not that aware of what the words are saying and/or the implications of them.
    This part of a song has gone through my head today. It’s by Francisco Ortega. I don’t know if he wrote it or if it’s an old hymn – Come ye sinners poor and needy, bruised and broken by the fall. Jesus, ready, stands to save you, full of pardoning love for all. He is able, he is able, he is willing doubt no more.
    I like that one. Bruised and broken, poor and needy. Full of pardoning love.

  • Scott M

    John, only one word gave me pause in this phrase:

    a new, biblically-informed robust anthropology shaped by a perichoretic Trinitarian theology

    And that word was new. 😉
    I guess some things can become so old they are new again, at least to some. Isn’t that how fashion works? (on a smaller scale) 😛

  • Peggy, you said: “It starts with #1–original sin–and goes staight down from there…”
    I wholeheartedly agree!
    Paul describes Jesus as the ‘last Adam’ (1 Cor. 15:45). It follows logically from this that, even if Adam’s sin was transmitted ‘originally’, such transmission ceased at the ‘last Adam’. How then can any Christian church teach that Adam’s sin is still being transmitted while recognising Jesus as the ‘last Adam’?
    The author of 1 John states in 3:7-9 that the person who does righteousness is righteous and that whoever is born of God cannot sin.
    Jesus said: “If I had not come and spoken unto them they had not had sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin.” (John 15:22).
    The doctrine of Original Sin has replaced the Law’s cover for sin that Jesus took away!
    Those who follow Jesus are ‘righteous’, those who follow Adam are ‘sinners’.

  • Good point Scot… i enjoy reading your series on the new perspective.

  • Mark

    Peggy said, “It starts with #1–original sin–and goes staight down from there.”
    I’ve often thought it might be useful to think of original sin as the genetic programming at the heart of evolution. Everything about “survival of the fittest” depends on an organism attempting to survive and to protect its offspring (those who carry its genes). If an organism wants to commit suicide it doesn’t matter what useful adaptations its genetic structure may carry, because it won’t live to pass them on. The ones who survive are the ones who put a high premium on survival. So whatever else natural selection may be selecting for at any given moment, it’s selecting for organisms that try to survive and to protect their children. Of course we have a very strong tendency to selfishness: desire to survive is “in the hardware” (at the heart, right along with desire to reproduce).
    I think this *genetic* predisposition to selfishness fits nicely with the way Jesus talks about sin.
    He came to save us from sin, and what does he say? “Who are my mother and my sisters and my brothers? Those who do the will of God” (ie, not just the ones to whom I am genetically related). And he says, “Greater love has no man than that he lay down his life for his friends” (again, not just for people to whom he is genetically related).
    And, as Augustine believed, we are born into this condition: it is part of the programming, passed along to us from our ancestors.
    Of course, I’m not suggesting Augustine (or Jesus) would have put the argument this way, just that this makes sense for me of some of the things Augustine said about original sin. There is a selfish predisposition I think I’ve observed in my own heart and the hearts of those around me; and I think I see Jesus making that same observation and calling us beyond it.

  • مسحي

    Thank you for your post. Unfortunately, you actually do mischaracterize Augustine’s anthropology rather significantly. This is understandable given how much misunderstanding about Augustine there is out there, and I commend the openness to input with which you begin.
    While Augustine would agree with your 1 and 6, these two theses are not distinctively his but (as I imagine you would agree) are in some form partly constituitive of Christian faith as such. Thesis 3 is not something Augustine affirms, though he does believe that humans have a desire for the good or happiness that can only be satisfied by God but which is easily misdirected and perverted. The key terms in theses 2, 4 and 5 are unclear in a way that makes their accuracy impossible to evaluate: what do you mean by “bound to their sinful natures” and “‘naturally’ condemned before God”? As far as I know this is not Augustine’s language (though perhaps you have some passages in mind?), so it’s hard to know what views you’re attributing to him. Thesis 7 is problematic because of the way it builds on the mischaracterization and ambiguity of the preceding theses. Does Augustine think the only hope for human salvation is God’s grace? Yes, but it seems like you mean to say more than that in thesis 7. If you don’t mean to say more than that, then, again, this doesn’t seemt to be peculiarly Augustinian but peculiarly Christian.
    For the purposes of your argument the most important thesis, 3, the one you italicize, is actually the one that is most definitely not something Augustine held. I think that creates some very significant problems for your overall claims. (That’s not to say that your anti-NPP interlocutors don’t mistakenly think Augustine did hold 3–perhaps they do.)
    You are correct in pointing to Augustine’s penchant for unmasking power and showing that often behind apparently great and in many respects truly praiseworthy human achievements lies something sinister. So in DCD, he praises the Romans sincerely, but shows that their magnificent self-discipline and self-sacrifice has been driven by a lust for domination. This unmasking (which many contemporary non-Christian critical thinkers echo) seems itself to echo Jesus’s treatment of the Pharisees and behind that the prophet’s treatment of Israel (e.g. “I desire mercy, not sacrifice.”). Is this something you want to criticize?
    I assume that you think there is something about the preaching of anti-NPP folks that distinguishes it from Jesus’s preaching or that of the prophets so that the former is bad and the latter good. Further you seem to think Augustine’s unmasking belongs more in the former category than the latter, but you need to make an argument for why and in what respects this is the case, and you need to show how both Augustine’s unmasking and that of contemporary ani-NPP is nonetheless not like Jesus’s and the prophet’s. As it stands, this is missing.
    I think you’ll find it much easier to articulate more precisely what’s wrong with contemporary folks than to show their similarity to Augustine and, in turn, how despite appearances Augustine is not similar to Jesus and the prophets.
    Additionally, Luther and Calvin are very different from one another on many of these issues, particularly on anthropology (e.g. see Institutes 2.2.12-17) and the conversation would be furthered by more rather than less attention to these differences.

  • Peggy

    Commentors, all:
    This thread is one of those that makes me yearn for the chance to sit together in a room and really understand each other…sigh….
    Sound bites are just not able to do justice to the depth of the issues here and for the many different approaches to be fully unpacked and understood.
    I realize that this kind of an expectation is completely inappropriate for the environment Scot provides so graciously…but it does set a longing in my heart.

  • BeckyR

    Fernando Ortega not Francisco

  • BeckyR

    Yeh, Peggy, that’s what I was thinking this morning. I was wishing a circle of chairs and we could not only give out opinions but build our thoughts from others, and, of course, adding the ‘yeh, but.’ Get clarification till we think we understand what the person is saying.

  • مسحي

    To prevent confusion, note the following typos in my previous comment: “prophet’s” (singular) should be “prophets’ ” (plural). Sorry.

  • Speaker of Truth » Augustine’s mistake about sin

    […] Scot McKnight writes: Behind the Reformation is Augustine; behind much of modern evangelicalism, especially in the Reformed circles today, is the Reformation. Therefore, at the bottom of the evangelical movement in the Reformed circles is Augustine and his anthropology. […]

  • Scott

    One major issue is that “Augstinian” and subsequent readings Paul do take up valid themes, tropes,concepts–that’s not problem. The problem arises when–as N.T. Wright has perceptively stated on occasion–these themes are excised from their original historical context and made to work within another narrative (whether philosophical, historical, personal,etc.) which is not grounded in the Second Temple Jewish one and the issues Paul(and Jesus)were addressing.This is made worse when these frameworks,bolstered by these biblical warrants,are themselves reified.Therefore, of neccessity,the effect of the NPP involves some “deconstruction,” like the ripple of a wave in a pond when a stone is thrown in.It has to will hit exegesis,biblical theology,systematic theology and pastoral issues,too.

  • Scott M

    I’ve been thinking more about it and I think the “New Perspective” and the comments here flow from the lie at the heart of the common rhetoric surrounding “sola scriptura.” I’m not sure I’ll ever grasp what that phrase is supposed to mean since it seems to mean something different to everyone who explains it. In its historical context, it looks to me as though it was the assertion of the reformers of their right to interpret scripture over against the interpretation of the Roman Catholic magisterium.
    Since then, however, it seems to have come to mean that any human being can read the bible by itself and correctly interpret and apply it. And that’s the big lie. Not only is it a lie, it seems to me that everyone knows it is a lie. Why else all the books and study bibles and lectures and programs all explaining to people how to “correctly” interpret scripture? You have only to look at the landscape to see that this lie is well on its way toward producing a “church” for every individual believer. We may already be there even if some of us do still gather together.
    That is inevitable. If you teach that every individual can read and interpret scripture in complete isolation from history (what the words might have actually meant to the one writing and those to whom it was written) and the tradition of interpretation within the church, then you have elevated every interpretation to the same level. Nobody actually believes that to be true, but it is what that particular formulation actually teaches. (Scot, I’ve heard you articulate your understanding of “sola scriptura” before and I know that’s not what you believe.)
    Thus the NPP does privilege history over any particular system of interpretation. If the text meant something when it was written, then that is what it still means. And if that contradicts a particular system of theology, then so be it.
    Remember, many of the great heresies of the church were propogated by arguments solely from scripture against the traditional interpretation. Arius was a very sola scriptura sort of guy. And a very charismatic and persuasive one. It is possible that, heading into that council, the majority of the bishops agreed with him. By the end, few did. And the arguments and fights (even St. Nick punching Arius) largely involved how the church had understood scripture based on the teaching of the apostles.
    I think most people completely misunderstand what big ‘T’ Tradition means in the RCC and Orthodox Church. There are differences in both, not least the RCC belief in the infallibility of the Pope and the ability to add to Tradition. But both do share the belief that “Tradition” consists of the oral teachings of the apostles which the written scripture itself references. The Orthodox might say that Holy Tradition is Scripture rightly interpreted.
    The NPP brings historical context back into the picture. And that’s critical since Christianity makes historical claims.

  • With respect to the Augustinian tradition (if such a caricature may be drawn), there is a paper on “Original Sin” by George Murphy which is posted by the American Scientific Affiliation at
    This paper (page 3) has some discussion on Augustinian and later protestant thoughts on anthropology. The paper also looks at the concept of Sin origins and links to atonement/ incarnation in light of a Darwinian anthropology.
    I’d like to see more exegesis in this area, to determine what compatibility or disagreement might exist between what Murphy is suggesting and what the “NAP” has to offer, particularly in regard to the sin/ salvation question.

  • “NAP” should have been “NP”, in my last post.

  • Becky,
    I don’t know for certain, but I’m pretty sure that the word “wretch” in Amazing Grace didn’t imply “scum”. When someone from that time called someone a “poor wretch”, it was an expression of pity. A wretch is a pitiful person caught in great misfortune.

  • Nick Mackison

    Scot, I’ve been on holiday, so forgive me for coming in late on this one. I have a question about NTW’s soteriology. How does he view salvation in the OT?
    I’ve been picking at his “Climax of the Covenant” and I think he’s saying that in the OT, the keeping of the law was how the people of God were marked out in the OT. What I can’t get my head around is that if the Torah could never give life, and God told Israel “you shall live by these commands” how does NTW reconcile these two aspects without becoming a Lutheran?
    In NTW’s scheme, was salvation always by faith, or was the law the OT means? Thanks in advance for any help on this.

  • Nick,
    I try not to speak for Tom on questions like this.

  • Recent Discussion on the New Perspective on Paul at PastorBlog

    […] New Perspective 5 […]

  • Jacob

    I’m intrigued by how this topic echoes discussions I’ve had with strictly Reformed Christians, resulting in eventual agreement that salvation has always been “by grace through faith”.
    Although I’m inclined toward Reformed soteriology, the Reformed accusation that all Dispensationalism intrinsically teaches two means of salvation got me (one sympathetic toward the Dispensational distinctive between Israel and the Church) defensive. The issue became my denial that the OT saints needed to explicitly trust in Christ for salvation. My suggestion was that they trusted in the promise & provision of God, and that that was saving faith, with the object of promise & provision being made clear in the person of Christ.
    The echo of NPP was the fact that we agreed that OT saints were never justified by keeping the law, and that justification has always been “by grace through faith”. It was Moody that drove from me the Roman Catholic teaching that justification in Judaism was through keeping the law.

  • peregrinatio » O du lieber Augustin…

    […] Wer bisher noch nicht Scot McKnights Besprechung der “New Perspective on Paul” (kurz: “NPP”, wesentliche Beiträge dazu kamen von Sanders, J. Dunn, N.T. Wright) gelesen hat, sollte nun bei Folge 5 spätestens einsteigen. Hier geht es um die Frage der Sündhaftigkeit des Menschen, wo sich die NPP gegen die Paulusinterpretation der Reformatoren abgrenzt, die Judentum und (Semi-) Pelagianismus verwechseln und in der Sünden- und Gnadenlehre auf Augustinus zurückgreifen. Ihr Hauptgegner ist die “Werkgerechtigkeit”. Wenn der Text kürzer wäre, hätte ich ihn hier übersetzt (oder hat jemand Zeit und Lust…?). […]

  • With Scot’s blessing, the five-part series on NPP is offered at Vanguard Church as a pdf file.
    Download it here: Understanding the New Perspective on Paul by Scot McKnight

  • peregrinatio » Emergente Zankäpfel

    […] Seit ich gestern so parallel die Diskussion über Emerging Church las, die Sebastian Heck (einige kannten ihn noch nicht bisher…) bei DoSi noch mal richtig angeheizt hatte und parallel die schon erwähnte Kritik an der augustinisch-reformatorischen Paulusinterpretation, frage ich mich, ob mit dem Abschied vom modernen Denken (im Sinne einer radikaleren “Aufklärung über die Aufklärung”) hier nicht auch ein Bewusstsein wächst, dass auch das neuzeitlich-reformatorische Paradigma zu eng geworden ist und erweitert und erneuert werden muss; und zwar aus sich selbst heraus durch den Bezug auf die Schrift, aber auch im Dialog mit anderen christlichen Traditionen, vor allem der ostkirchlichen Soteriologie; auf die spielt McKnight an mit dem für ihn zentralen Begriff des “eikon”, also der Gottebenbildlichkeit des Menschen (und für meinen Geschmack müssten die Diskussionen über die Gestalt von Kirche der Frage nach dem Wesen des Evangeliums nachgeordnet sein). […]