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New Perspective on Paul and Federal Vision Resources

June 18, 2007

I think this will probably be my last post on the PCA and the New Perspective/Federal Vision controversy for a while.  But in watching the video it seemed that a number of elders seemed to have a desire to learn more about these movements.  Some of them seemed to not have enough understanding of the movements to judge whether or not they are contrary to the Westminster Standards or not.  Also, at church yesterday, a gentleman approached me (a seminary student) and said that he knows of the terms New Perspective and Federal vision and they are mentioned a lot in his classes with assumed knowledge, but he does not even know what it entails.  I wanted to give some resources that have been helpful for me in understanding them.  I am including some works by NP/FV authors, some works by authors who are reacting against NP/FV authors, and some works that just introduce the subject.

            i.            Some works that introduce the subject:

·         D. A. Carson has a great 3 part audio lecture that introduces the subject.  While Carson does critique the movement, he does give a fair portrayal of the movement and its personalities.  Part 1, Part 2, & Part 3.  This is less of a daunting work than Justification and Variegated Nomism, which I mention below.

·         Don Garlington (Auburn Way Theologian) has written an article  A “New Perspective Reading” of Central Texts in Romans 1-4.  Garlington is a Federal Visionist who gives a helpful article in understanding how NP/FV articulate justification passages in the first 4 chapters of Paul’s letter to the Romans.

·         Don Garlington wrote a response to John Piper’s book Counted Righteous in Christ: Should We Abandon the Imputation of Christ Righteousness?, entitled Imputation or Union with Christ: a Response to John Piper.  Piper responds with the article John Piper Responds to Don Garlington on the Imputation of Righteousness.  Garlington then responds Piper with the article Imputation or Union with Christ: A Rejoinder to John Piper.  The reason this interaction is helpful is because it forces both parties (Piper – classically reformed and Garlington – Federal Vision) to really articulate their soteriological stances.   

          ii.              Works by NP/FV authors on subjects concerning justification, law, atonement, imputation theology and further:

·         N. T. Wright has written an article On Becoming the Righteousness of God: 2 Corinthians 5:21 which is his argument against substitutionary atonement in 2 Corinthians 5:21.  This is a good beginning on how Wright thinks about these sorts of texts and atonement, even though I believe his argument is a little bizarre.

·         The bombshell book by E. P. Sanders Paul and Palestinian Judaism: A Comparison of Patterns of Religion  is good to at least “critically” thumb through since this was the fire starter to the contemporary movement.  It might be a better use of time to just read part 2, which doesn’t start until page 431.  This is when Sanders finally get to dealing with Paul and his soteriology. 

·         N. T. Wright’s book The New Testament and the People of God.  It might be useful to skip to chapter 9 and following, especially if you have read through Sander’s book.  You will get an idea of what Wright means when uses phrases like “covenantal community.”  You also start to understand that when Wright uses the word ‘gospel’ he uses quite differently than what a historical evangelical would use it.

·          Jesus, Paul and the Law: Studies in Mark and Galatians.  James Dunn attempts to work out what Paul and Jesus meant in their writings of the Law in light of New Perspective on Paul.  While Dunn has swerved a little in recent years from some of his statements in this book, but it is still a clear view of the use of the Law in the New Perspective.

·         Krister Stendahl’s article 1963 The Apostle Paul and the Introspective Conscience of the West , you could say, started the whole movement.

·         N. T. Wright’s Rutherford House, Edinburgh lecture  New Perspectives on Paul is probably the best introduction to his views of the gospel, the righteousness of God, works and faith, and justification, though it will leave you with many questions on how he comes to some of his conclusions.

         iii.            Some works in response to NP/FV authors:

·         I suppose I will just start with the biggie: Justification and Variegated Nomism: Vol 1: Complexities of 2nd Temple Judaism and Vol. 2: Paradoxes of Paul.  This huge and overwhelming work was edited by D. A. Carson, Peter T. O’Brien, and Mark Seifrid.  This work is unapproachable to many, since it assumes a good of knowledge of Second Temple Literature and Aramaic, especially in vol. 1.  But the second half of vol. 2 can be helpful for understanding specifics of Paul on justification, law, and righteousness. 

·         Stephen Westerholm’s book Perspectives Old and New on Paul: The ‘Lutheran’ Paul and His Critics is probably the best one volume/ author response to the New Perspective on Paul.  He gives a great historical introduction to the topic and a good display of its exegetical weaknesses.

·         Brian Vickers has written an excellent book, arguing for the doctrine of imputation of the righteousness of Christ as biblical – Jesus’ Blood and Righteousness: Paul’s Theology of Imputation.  Vickers also gives a great historical introduction to the controversy concerning this doctrine and a wonderful exegetical case for it.  I would highly recommend this book!

·         Paul and the New Perspective: Second Thoughts on the Origin of Paul’s Gospel by Seyoon Kim.  Kim primarily interacts with James Dunn and his use of law and justification.  I am not incredibly familiar with this work.  I have only glanced at a few chapters. 

I hope this list is helpful.  If there are other resources that I did not list and you think are helpful, feel free to give some suggestions. 

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