The New Perspective on Paul

Right now, I am stirring up rather a hornet’s nest on the Wrightsaid group page (a page dedicated to discussing the theology of N.T. Wright) by suggesting that N.T. Wright is wrong on justification. I have attacked it from several angles (from imputation to law to merit). It is discouraging in many ways, because so many of the people come from “conversionistic” backgrounds, and have now repudiated that so much that they have thrown the baby out with the bath-water. They reject what they think is the Reformed faith, but it is not the Reformed faith that they are rejecting. It is a caricature of the Reformed faith that they reject. For instance, they say (and N.T. Wright makes this mistake constantly) that Paul was not reacting to some kind of “works-righteousness” in Second Temple Judaism, since Judaism is a religion of grace. They lampoon the Reformation for saying that Paul was reacting against some kind of “incipient Pelagianism.” Well, Pelagianism has little to do with what Paul and Luther were arguing against. It was SEMI-Pelagianism against which Paul and Luther were arguing. The difference is enormous. Pelagianism argues that the Fall did not affect humanity at all. Pelagianism has nothing whatever to do with grace. Semi-Pelagianism, on the other hand, can talk about grace all the time. It just never says grace ALONE. Semi-Pelagianism therefore tries to hide its legalism with a veneer of grace. This is precisely what Second Temple Judaism did, and it is precisely what Roman Catholicism was doing when Luther attacked it. So Luther was right to compare Catholicism with Judaism. N.T. Wright makes a fundamental historical blunder when he uses the term Pelagianism, since Pelagianism was condemned in the time of Augustine by ALL branches of Christendom. Augustine won that fight hands down. Pelagianism was nowhere in the church during the Medieval period. Instead, it was syngergism that crept in. Synergism is the belief that God and man work together to achieve initial salvation. This was Paul and Luther’s true target. The Reformation was right, and the New Perspective on Paul is WRONG.



  1. August 30, 2005 at 4:53 pm

    A similar point is found in Gal. 3:1-5. Paul admits that they began with faith, but he adds that they must also continue and end with faith. “Are you so foolish, having begun in the Spirit are you now made perfect by the flesh. Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by the hearing of faith?” So, justification isn’t just by faith at the beginning, it is that way all the way through. Many Arminians believe that justification is by faith alone in the initial reception but also believe that works are important for keeping our justification. Paul contends that justification is by faith alone from first to last.

  2. Mr. Baggins said,

    August 31, 2005 at 10:46 am

    Yes, that is an excellent point. The works we do are required. they are an integral part of our sanctification. But they never, ever play a part in our justification. So we are not antinomian, or legalistic. Thanks for sharing that insight on Galatians. I don’t think I had ever thought of it quite like that. In fact, the passage sometimes bothered me. I would find myself asking, “Then why do good works?” You have cleared that up for me. Thanks–>

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