On Sunday, January 31, 2016, Pastor Joe Troutman introduced to the adult Sunday School class the recent theological movement among some modern liberal theologians called the New Perspective on Paul and how it pertains to the doctrine of justification.
Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.(Romans 5:1-2 ESV)
Does he who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you do so by works of the law, or by hearing with faith–just as Abraham “believed God and it was counted to him as righteousness”? (Galatians 3:5-6)
Westminster Shorter Catechism, Q&A #33:
Q. What is justification?
A. Justification is an act of God’s free grace, wherein he pardoneth all our sins, and accepteth us as righteous in his sight, only for the righteousness of Christ imputed to us, and received by faith alone.
The New Perspective on Paul and the Federal Vision are two theological movements, the former a liberal movement and the latter a conservative movement, which share a few common emphases. Firstly, they share a common emphasis on “justification by faithfulness.” The orthodox Protestant doctrine of justification is that faith is the instrument by which one receives justification which is grounded on the faithfulness (i.e., the perfect righteousness) of the Lord Jesus Christ. Another common emphasis shared by the two movements is a lack of distinction between what the Reformed Confessions and Catechisms call the “visible church,” comprised of all, whether elect or non-elect, who profess faith in Christ and their children, and the “invisible church,” comprised of “the whole number of the elect.” Finally, the idea of “keeping covenant” is another shared emphasis between the heresies of the Federal Vision and the New Perspective on Paul.
The most well-known scholars who developed the New Perspective on Paul are Bishop N.T. Wright, James D.G. Dunn, and E.P Sanders. These assert that the Protestant understanding of Justification by Faith Alone is the result of Martin Luther’s reading his personal experience in sixteenth century Roman Catholicism back into his reading of Second Temple Judaism. They say he did this by projecting Roman Catholic legalism back onto the Jews and the Christian Judaizers in his reading of the books of Romans and Galatians. Sanders, Wright and Dunn counter the great Protestant Reformer’s reading of Romans and Galatians by asserting that Second Temple Judaism held to a view which the scholars have called “Covenantal Nomism.” Their definition of “Covenantal Nomism” is that one demonstrates that he is in the covenant by keeping the law. By this definition, they deny Luther’s application of this idea to soteriology (the doctrine of salvation), asserting that it only applies to ecclesiology (the doctrine of the church).