Tuesday, March 24, 2009
The Skunk Doth Speakth
I have done my best to try to demonstrate that there are aspects of the "New Perspective of Paul" that those of the Reformed faith can appropriate without losing their way. I've also been critical of the New Perspective (if you don't believe me then ask Tom Wright or Jimmy Dunn who see me as a sympathetic critic). But I've recently learnt that much of this conversation is immensely futile.
Scott Clark has a blog entry on Can Reformed Theology and the NPP Be Synthesized? which links to Guy Waters' review of Dan Kirk's new book Unlocking Romans. I chimed in the comments to the effect that: "There are different ways of appropriating the NPP. The most promising is to recognize the horizontal aspects of justification which NPP interpreters have pointed out (though without reducing justification to a social epiphenomena as some NPP proponents can do). It is this aspect that has been neglected in post-Reformation dogmatics since Paul is just as much concerned with 'Who are the people of God?' as he is with 'What must I do to be saved?'. Whether ya like it or not, this is one aspect that we can learn from the NPP. I would add that Sanders’ participationist eschatology is far more likely to be the centre of Paul’s thought than the imputed righteousness of the active obedience of Jesus Christ in order to fulfil the covenant of works!" I thought that, that was a fairly straight foward comment stated in a cordial and generous way.
There was a response from the Rev. Gary Johnson (co-editor with Guy Waters of By Faith Alone: Answering the challenges to the Doctrine of Justification) which labels me, and this is classic, as a "sneaky, low-down skunk who embraced the NPP ... while stilling claiming to be Reformed". How does one respond to that?
I have genuinely tried to have a serious and gracious conversation with certain folks in the conservative Reformed wing about Pauline theology, but I am now led to believe that this is an exercise in futility. I trust, then, that my interaction in a forthcoming book by IVP with a bonafide Reformed scholar in Michael Horton will show how to have a fruitful and cordial discussion on these issues. I doubt whether I'll be able to convince Mike Horton (and vice-versa), but hopefully we can present a model of civilized and Christian conversation within the Reformed tradition to which we both belong.