The New Perspective is not a dangerous idea which will destroy the heart of Christianity, although it will force a reconsideration of some of the assumptions of the Protestant Reformation. This is not to say it will turn Protestants into Catholics. As Wright frequently says, all he is trying to do is to continue the reformation by being faithful to Scripture and accurately describing Paul’s theology. Of course, that is what advocates of the traditional formulation is doing too.
I find the reactions to Sanders, Dunn and Wright somewhat bewildering, mostly because I do not work within a context of a Protestant Reformed denomination. I have always resonated with a more Calvinist view of salvation, but I am not bound by a commitment to a confession nor do I have a strong affinity for Luther and the reformation, although that is probably because my tradition moved beyond the reformation in Eschatology and Ecclesiology. I agree with Wright that there is nothing wrong with “reforming the Reformation,” Calvin and Luther would want the discussion of Pauline theology to continue and make use of all of the evidence available today.
Because this is an important issue, I am going to devote five or six postings to the New Perspective in anticipation of my Pauline Theology and Literature class I will be teaching this fall. Here is my plan for this series, I might add one or two more topics before I am finished. Feel free to suggest a potential topic for the series.
- What was the Old Perspective?
- The Beginnings of the New Perspective: Lake, Davies and Sanders
- Wright and Dunn: A Newer Perspective?
- Response to the New Perspective
- Dispensational Theology and the New Perspective on Paul
I will admit that this is a brief overview. Each of the topics ought to be a chapter of a book (they probably will be, eventually!) I am confessing up front that this series is woefully inadequate for a full understanding of the topics. For this reason I will provide a list of other resources for each post “for further study.” My goal is to provide a brief orientation to the New Perspective on Paul so that a student may read other works on the New Perspective with some context.