Thursday, August 07, 2008

Paul and Sola Gratia

Can Paul's theology be summarized as an expression of sola gratia? If faith and obedience are the necessary means or necessary evidences of salvation, is this really by grace alone? Recently Francis Watson has written: ‘The Reformational assumption that Pauline theology is summed up in the phrase sola gratia should be treated with considerable caution’ (Paul, Judaism, and the Gentiles, p. 346). In my mind, Paul’s remarks in Gal. 1.15-16 and 1 Cor. 15.8-10 seem to correspond remarkably well with a sola gratia principle indeed. What Watson has undermined is perhaps more akin to a monergism that leaves no room for conversion and obedience as the necessary pre-condition of salvation. The only genuinely form of monergism in this regard is probably some type of universalism. Incidentally, I hope to have a seven page review of Watson's book out soon, it's been a cracking read, easily one of the top five books in Pauline studies in the last ten years.

1 comment:

The Pook said...

Don't know about Watson, but I still rather unfashionably side with Luther on this issue and am unconvinced by others like Sanders et al.

The only point I'd make is to question whether Reformational theology DOES sum up Paul as simply as all that. Paul's theology is complex and rich and his letters touch on many subjects. You could at a pinch say that the overarching theme (or underlying issue if you like) is justification by grace through faith alone for Jew as for Gentile, but to do that may not be to do do justice to the corpus. We need to remember that systematics labels placed on the applied theology of real life epistles are at best generalisations.