Item description for Perspectives Old and New on Paul: The "Lutheran" Paul and His Critics by Stephen Westerholm...
Overview According to the authors of this book, who explore evolutionary theory from a clear Christian perspective, the common view of conflict between evolutionary theory and Christian faith is mistaken. Written by contributors representing the natural sciences, philosophy, theology, and the history of science, this thought-provoking work is informed by both solid scientific knowledge and keen theological insight. The three sections of the book address (1) relevant biblical, historical, and scientific background, (2) the scientific evidence for an evolving creation, and (3) theological issues commonly raised in connection with evolution, including the nature of God's creative activity, the meaning of the miraculous, and the uniqueness of humankind. Woven through the volume are short meditations designed to direct readers toward worshiping the God of providence.
Publishers Description Here, finally, is a much-needed review and analysis of the divergent interpretations of Paul. In this superb work Stephen Westerholm compares the traditional, "Lutheran" understanding of Paul to recent, "New Perspective" readings of Paul, drawing on the writings of key figures in the debate both past and present.
Westerholm first offers a detailed portrait of the "Lutheran" Paul, including the way theologians like Augustine, Luther, Calvin, and Wesley have traditionally interpreted "justification by faith" to mean that God declares sinners "righteous" by his grace apart from "works." Westerholm then explores how the "Lutheran" Paul has fared in the twentieth century, where "New Perspective" readings of Paul see the point of his doctrine to be that Gentiles need not become Jews or observe Jewish law to be God's people. The final section of the book looks anew at disputed areas of Paul's theological language and offers compelling discussion on the place of both justification by faith and Mosaic law in divine redemption.
This book's comprehensive coverage of Pauline interpreters and its fresh insights into Pauline thought make it ideal for use as a text.
Citations And Professional Reviews Perspectives Old and New on Paul: The "Lutheran" Paul and His Critics by Stephen Westerholm has been reviewed by professional book reviewers and journalists at the following establishments -
Christian Century - 10/19/2004 page 32
Choice - 11/01/2004 page 502
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Studio: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company
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Release Date Jan 1, 2004
Publisher Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company
ISBN 0802848095 ISBN13 9780802848093
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More About Stephen Westerholm
Stephen Westerholm (DTheol, Lund University) is professor of early Christian studies at McMaster University. He is the author of Justification Reconsidered, Understanding Paul, Perspectives Old and New on Paul, and Jesus and Scribal Authority.
Stephen Westerholm was born in 1949 and has an academic affiliation as follows - McMaster University, Canada.
Stephen Westerholm has published or released items in the following series...
Reviews - What do customers think about Perspectives Old and New on Paul: The "Lutheran" Paul and His Critics?
Westerholm Book Review May 2, 2008
Perspectives Old and New on Paul: The Lutheran Paul and His Critics (hereafter referred to as Perspectives) gives a wonderful look at the study of Paul both before and after the publication of Sander's Paul and Palestinian Judaism. In his own introduction, Stephen Westerholm gives a "whimsical" account of himself, a friend and Martin Luther risen from the dead, in a bookstore perusing modern scholarly work on the new perspective of Pauline studies, work that has a distinctly anti-Lutheran bent to it. In Part I of Perspectives, Westerholm then introduces the reader first to four giants of Western theology who are representative of traditionally Lutheran positions. Augustine, Luther himself, John Calvin, and John Wesley all read Paul as having the doctrine of justification by faith as his central idea, excluding any place for human action in salvation. After this portrayal of the Lutheran Paul, Part II of Perspectives gives various 20th century scholarly responses, both friendly and not. Part III regards Paul and the issues central to him themselves and attempts to answer questions about the state of the debate and where the truth of the matter may lie. My personal analysis of Perspectives finds that Westerholm has done an admirable job both in portraying the Lutheran Paul accurately and in adequately describing the new perspective response to him. However, I believe that in identifying the "center" of Paul's thought as justification by faith, Westerholm and others slight the many other issues Paul is trying to convey. That being said, in reaching the conclusion that Sanders, Dunn, and proponents of the new perspective have done studies of Paul a favor in accurately highlighting the reasons for Paul articulating justification by faith, not works, Westerholm encapsulates quite well the specific benefit of the new perspective, while at the same time reinforcing that Paul's rationale and basic point are best captured by Luther. The first key idea presented by all four "Lutheran" Paulinists is what is traditionally referred to as "original sin". Adam, father of us all, freely chose to violate God's commandment not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, and in so doing "[embarked] on a path where perceived self-interest rather than love governed [his]behavior" (Westerholm p.88). This prideful disobedience of God eternally changed the nature of humanity. Human nature now and forever remains one intrinsically focused on concerns of the flesh and not focused on the true and real love found in faith in God. The measures of atonement provided for in the law are of no help in dealing with a nature of sin rather than individual acts of sinfulness. This all is not to say though that human beings are anything other than responsible for their own actions. Augustine, Luther, Calvin and Wesley all acknowledge that we can only be held accountable for behavior that we initiate of our own will. Coercion to action does not impute guilt according to these four theological titans. However, Calvin asserts that although Adam's decision to, "withdraw from [God's] rule" (46), was a matter of his own free will, it was also the result of divine decree. That is, God "so judged because he saw that thereby the glory of his name is duly revealed" (47). The central focus of the "Lutheran" Paulinists presented by Westerholm, the doctrine of justification by grace, in faith, is not unique to Lutheran, or even Protestant versions of Christianity. All denominations of Christianity subscribe, at least in part, to the notion that one is justified before God by faith, that is, belief in his son Jesus as the one, "...who was delivered over because of our transgressions, and was raised because of our justification" (Rom 4:25). The Lutheran interpretation of this concept says that by God's grace, faith in the death of Christ acts as an atonement for all the sins of a fallen humanity and that Christ's resurrection provides us with the possibility of a new life in which we are free to break with our sinful nature. This faith bestowed upon man "appropriates for the believer the benefits of what Christ has done" (91). We cannot come to this faith without the redemptive goodness of God's grace. For the "Lutheran" Paulinists justification, grace, and faith are all gifts of God and not things that humans can earn through any act of their own. Pious regard for God's law, nor the doing of good works themselves is sufficient to earn God's grace and the gift of the Spirit which imbues us with faith. All four of the "Lutheran" Pauline interpreters are "united in their conviction that divine grace precludes any pretensions of human merit..." (91). While the four Pauline interpreters presented all agree that faith is the only key to justification in the eyes of God, they all also make sure to emphasize that faith has a tangible affect on the physical living of life. All four believe that good works are a necessary result of faith and that without them, "any faith that does not lead to...good works is counterfeit rather than real" (93). The idea is that after justification, faith in Christ moves people to feel a real love, the love of Christ, and this gives them the necessary impetus to do works that are good in the eyes of God. Luther himself here posits that although believers feel this love, the love itself is not a necessary condition for God's approval; that is the sole domain of faith. Rather, true faith brings with it this love and that faith without it is "counterfeit rather than real" (93). For the "Lutheran" Paulinists, the idea of justification by faith is in no way at odds with the continued doing of good works subsequent to justification. Of those who God justifies, there are none who have managed zero good works. It is not that the works themselves justify, rather that "works evidence [justification] rather than provide the basis for [it]." (93). In the vein of works as opposed to faith, our four interpreters all address Mosaic law. All four conclude that the ceremonies and prescribed works of Mosaic law are no longer necessary for true believers, as the Spirit that gives faith "enables them to fulfill its moral demands," (96) without adhering to the ceremonial strictures. The ceremonies were created by God to point the children of Israel towards Christ, not as a means for achieving goodness in God's eyes. Not only do our "Lutheran" Paulinists believe that the strictures found within Mosaic law are no longer necessary, but also that the demands made are "beyond the capacity of of fallen humankind to fulfill" (94). Apart from the ceremonies, they believe that Mosaic law contains within God's law of righteous conduct that all, even Christians, must obey. In Part II. of Westerholm's work, he addresses many scholar's responses to a traditional Lutheran interpretation of Paul. Westerholm attempts to break them down into a few broad areas such as the doctrine of justification by faith, the understanding of Judaism in relation to justification by faith, Paul's conscience and the effect it had on his theology, issues of consistency in Paul's epistles, new perspective responses to Lutheran interpretations of Paul, and a one chapter rebuttal given to supporters of a "Lutheran" Paul. He concludes Part II with a series of quotes that serve to illustrate the positions of scholars presented in Part III. For Luther and his supporters, the doctrine of justification by faith is the central premise of the Pauline epistles. It is the foundation on which Paul's views on much else are based. Without faith in Christ, provided to us by the grace of God, humanity would forever remain in a state of sin. We could never alone achieve redemption through our own acts motivated by a heart dominated by sin. Secondly, a Lutheran understanding of Judaism holds that Torah is essentially a guide to salvation based on human works. Judaism at the time of Christ was a legalistic religion who's adherents believed that fulfillment of the ceremonies and works outlined in the Torah was the only true path to salvation. This Judaism did not have room for justification being found in anything but Torah, including faith in the death and resurrection of Jesus. Being that Torah is clearly exclusive of all peoples except the nation of Israel, Gentiles would thus be left outside of God's saving grace. Paul's mission therefore would be for naught without some path to Christ for those kept outside of the nation of Israel by measures of the law. In Wrede and Schweitzer's view of justification by faith they believe that it is an argument that is secondary to Paul's understanding of redemption from sin. For William Wrede, justification by faith is a "polemical doctrine developed out of ... Paul's controversy with Judaism and Jewish Christianity" (105). It is in addressing his congregations questions about circumcision, adherence to Torah, etc., that Paul develops and enunciates his belief in justification by faith not by works. The emphasis he places on the distinction between by works and by faith are purely a result of this conflict within the early church, are always found in texts within the confines of that debate (Gal 3, Rom 3), and as such are not the central tenet of his theology. The new perspective says that primacy of thought in the Pauline corpus goes to redemption, but not just of redemption from a guilty conscience, but "a change in the very nature and conditions of existence" (Wrede, Paul p.112). For Paul, humans were in essence slaves to sin. While in the flesh, people are limited to this existence of slavery and had no way out. Sin was in a way an actual power that held sway over a person, and as such, must be defeated or overcome. Thus, any redemption from such power must include not just forgiveness for acts of sin, but also "a release from the whole present world" (104). It then follows from this view that the law has not been and is not helpful in achieving redemption. The law does not provide for a change in existence, it does not allow for an alteration of human nature at its core. All the law does is outline exactly what divine command the power of sin is transgressing. Perversely, sin then uses this knowledge to incite additional sinning in humans. If it is established that a complete change is needed to achieve redemption, the question of how to achieve that change arises. For the new perspective, the change in existence is wrought not by adherence to the Mosaic traditions, but by the death and resurrection of Christ. Christ escaped the clutches of his sinful, fleshy existence in the only way possible, by death, "for he who has died is freed from sin" (Rom 6:7). It is by participating in his death that the entire human race can be absolved from sin as well. Paul believed that by being baptized we were in effect dying as Christ died and could then be reborn free from the power of sin. The Lutheran view of Paul holds that justification by faith was a response to a Judaism based on legalism and justification by works. In the chapter, "The Faith of Paul's Fathers," Westerholm's chosen authors raise the objection that Judaism has been misinterpreted in being used as a foil to justification by faith. If this is the case, the question arises whether it is Paul who misunderstood Judaism, or whether it is Luther and other interpreters who have gotten Paul wrong (133). The first perspective, that Paul misunderstood Judaism, asserts that the Judaism of Paul's day saw the law as a gift of God, something intended to bring happiness and joy through the fulfillment of its commandments. Jews did not see the law as a burden nor something that condemned them. God forgave transgressions and did not expect perfection from his people. Paul on the other hand believed that the Law provoked a person to sin by outlining that it enabled sin to more fully affect its will on humans and that anything less than perfection incurred God's wrath. He did not see it as bringing joy, rather it brought the curse of condemnation. For those who see the interpreters of Paul as the one's obscuring the reality of Judaism, justification (or in this case, admittance into the kingdom) is achieved by being a member of the nation of Israel. The covenant God made with Israel is the defining point regarding acceptance with God. It then follows that observance of the Law is not necessary for salvation, but is a response to God's gift of the covenant. In chapter 8, Westerholm addresses the Augustinian/Lutheran addition of an introspective conscience, troubled by its own actions, as a motivation for Paul's thought. Many attempts such as penance and the monastic lifestyle were made through the centuries to assuage a troubled conscience (148). But it was Luther who applied the doctrine of justification by faith to the problem and thus found an acceptable balm for Western issues with conscience. Luther thought that Paul himself was a man riven by conflict, tormented by his own actions as not being good enough for God, and that justification by faith was his response to his own troubled conscience. Romans 7 then became not a defense of the law but a treatise on the powers of sin and how Paul "had been shattered by the law before coming to faith" (149). It is duly pointed out however that Paul did not seem to be troubled by himself prior to his conversion experience. In Phillipians 3, Paul says he found his performance as a Jew to be blameless. In view of this, Stendahl and others posit that Paul was addressing the problem of relations between Jew and Gentile believers with the doctrine of justification by faith. (147). Paul's mission was to bring Gentiles into the folds of Christ, but there stood a giant stumbling block, in the form of the law, to his achieving this goal. Thus, the doctrine of justification by faith came into being as a way to circumvent the law and give access to Christ to Gentiles. Instead of Paul's arguments about Mosaic law being placed within the context of Jew/Gentile relations, "Law came to be used in [reference to] the divinely imposed imperative[s]" (148). For many readers of the Pauline epistles, apparent contradictions jump out from the text with some regularity. Galatians speaks of the law as a curse (v.13), as unable to impart life (v.21), and as lacking a divine origin (v.19), whereas in Romans 8 the law does originate with God (8:7). Drane and Hubner propose that these inconsistencies are the product of evolution in Paul's thought on various issues such as the law. Heikki Raisanen goes further and believes that "Paul's statements about the law are not consistent even within the limits of a single epistle" (170). He concludes that this is because Paul was trying to answer the question of "how Christians can justify dispensing with a law they believe[d] to be divinely ordained", and that there is no logically valid answer (177). Regardless of how or why Paul is inconsistent, it must be acknowledged that he was not writing theological treatise, but was addressing "concrete situations in contemporary Christian communities" (164). Chapter 11 allows several proponents of the new perspective to detail their theories on how Luther misinterpreted Paul and thus Judaism, rather than Paul misinterpreting Judaism and Luther getting Paul right (178). Tom Wright believed that Judaism had a clear understanding of grace and that the works of the law were meant to show one's faithfulness to God's grace and to his covenant with the people of Israel (179). Dunn likewise believes that Judaism adheres to "good Protestant doctrine" in finding God's grace prior to any human works, but he thinks that the reason for Paul's articulation of the doctrine of justification by faith is what needs to be reexamined. Both he and Wright find that Paul was objecting not to a sense of legalism in Judaism, but to the ethnic boundary markers that the law held for Jews (187). Bruce Longenecker tweaks Dunn's assessment a little when he asserts that Paul is trying to undermine the "ethnocentric covenentalism" of Judaism but that from a Christian perspective this "reduces to nothing else than legalism." (193). In a chapter of rebuttal, Westerholm allows that many scholars today still adhere to a Lutheran interpretation of Paul that is very different from some of the ideas presented above. Some attack the reformist view point from the perspective of the law, others like C.E.B Cranfield suggest that either Christ does not abrogate the divinely given law but only a part of it, or that perhaps the true nature of the law is misunderstood and the coming of Christ appears as an abrogation, but is not in fact such. Paul himself, in Romans 3, while discussing faith, suggests that the law is not abrogated by faith in Christ, but is in fact upheld by such faith. Thomas Schreiner for one believes that the covenental nomism of E.B. Sanders is incorrect because in fact, Jewish texts make very few mention of the covenant, while at the same going to great lengths to detail human responsibility in day to day affairs. He believes that while Sanders portrayal of Palestinian Judaism has helped clarify the way in which Jews saw the practice of their own religion (as always dependent on divine grace), that nevertheless, the Lutheran idea of legalistic thinking is still present in Judaism (209). Schreiner further attempts to sideline the idea that Jewish exclusiveness is in fact what Paul is attacking by making note that Romans 2 focuses on the moral transgressions of Jews proscribing their justification, "not [that]they exclude Gentiles and trumpet Jewish prerogatives" (210). Andrew Das concurs with Schreiner's positions in many respects, but his main objection to a reformist approach is couched in a different way. He refers to ancient Jewish texts (Qumran, Philo, and Tannaitic literature, etc.) to illustrate that rabbis in the past thought both that God demanded perfection from Israel and also that the rabbis approached theological issues in a legalistic way, in contrast to Sander's attempts to find Judaism as non-legalistic faith. In the last chapter of Part II, Westerholm attempts to let many different scholars whose material he is to use in the latter part of the book illustrate for themselves their positions on some key issues to be addressed. His main section headings convey quite clearly the essentials of all the quotes that follow. Hence, "Judaism Preaches Grace" (250), leads to "Salvation . . . is always by the grace of God, embodied in the covenant" (Sanders, Paul Pal. Jud. p.297). All four of the sections are structured the same way. The point of Westerholm's chapter of quotes is to highlight for the reader the defining difference between Lutheran interpretations of Paul and new perspective ones. As encountered in this text the issue becomes whether justification by faith, not by works, becomes a question of sinners having exactly zero to do with finding God's approval, or whether the main thrust of the doctrine has to do with creating a way for Gentiles to be included in the kingdom of heaven without having to convert to Judaism (257). Westerholm begins Part III. by highlighting several key words who's definitions greatly affect the meaning and thrust of the epistles. Number one on his list is the term "righteousness". He brings to the table the greek word dikaios that is translated in English as the adjective righteous, creates an English word dikaiosness to serve as the English noun righteousness, and creates a verb dikaiosify to serve as the English "to be declared/made righteous". In Greek, the group of words associated with righteousness are all of the -dik type, while English lacks this distinction, using both righteousness and justification to describe what in the Greek are similar words. In translation, the coherence of the Greek is potentially lost which has the potential to throw a great cloud on the whole idea of righteousness (263). After creating this new terminology to highlight the continuity of the Greek, Westerholm goes on to divide righteousness into two different types, ordinary and extraordinary righteousness. Ordinary righteousness is what a person should do in a given situation and also what a person has if they have done what they should (265). A person is declared righteous by God (in the ordinary sense it is not something made in a person because it is something acknowledged by God to be the way a person is) when they are treated as a person who does what is righteous. In a legalistic view, like that of the last judgment, the end of days, to be declared righteous more closely means that a person is found innocent of any wrongdoing. In order to be righteous in this sense, Paul says that people must be "doers of the law" (Romans 2:13). The law spells out what actions make a person righteous. Though given to Jews, and thus giving them the advantage of having righteous conduct spelled out, the law of righteousness is something that all people are responsible for following and all will be declared righteous only if they have done the correct things (269) . Extraordinary righteousness is the concept (and the usage of the -dik vocabulary) unique to Paul. For Paul, this type of righteousness is imputed by God, through Christ, on those who do not merit judgment as righteous. In Romans 5, Paul writes that God gave his only son over to death for those who were still sinners, who were not righteous. For God, the penalty of being a sinner, of not being righteous, is death, wrath, judgment against. By the definition of ordinary righteousness then no one can be found to be righteous, all are sinners, because no one is a "doer of the law". The extraordinary part for Paul is that even though all are not righteous and all are worthy of death, God sacrificed Jesus (though in some texts the righteousness of sinners is not linked to Christ's death itself, but to his being obedient before God, or to the participation of the faithful in his death through baptism), his son, for us all so that all can be made righteous (found free of sin, acquitted in the eyes of God) (278). Perhaps the most important point made about extraordinary righteousness is that unlike the ordinary kind, people are not found to be righteous in this case. The righteousness of faith in Christ (279) is a freely given gift of God's grace upon those who are not worth of it. We as sinners have nothing to do with it being given, we have done nothing to earn it, and thus we have nothing to boast about, except of course the Lord Jesus Christ. Lastly Westerholm spells out what he calls "Divine Righteousness". This is God's inherent truthfulness, rightness, and his faithfulness to his own commitments (284). God never wavers in his correct judgment of wrong vs. right. He always justly condemns sinners. Ultimately though, his divine righteousness was most apparent when he delayed the condemnation of humanity long enough so that Christ came and took on all God's wrath himself. Both God acquitting all sinners of wrongdoing and his salvific act of supporting what is righteous by judging the sins of all through the death of Christ, demonstrate his divine righteousness. In Chapter 16, Westerholm attempts to define what Paul meant when he used the term "the law". His main points are that, one, Paul uses the term "the law" to reference the Old Testament scriptures, specifically the Sinaitic legislation (297). Westerholm says that Paul refers to the law as something that can be done, or kept, and that it can be transgressed. Paul also often speaks of the law and then references specific requirements such as the prohibitions on stealing, idol worship, and adultery (Romans 2). In Romans 7, Paul even uses the words law and commandment as if they mean the same thing saying, "I was once alive apart from the law, but when the commandment came sin sprang to life and I died". These wordings presuppose that the law is not just the Old Testament scriptures as a whole, for those include histories and prophetic utterances as well, but is more specifically the commandments and requirements that can either be kept or broken. His second point is that Paul understands the Sinaitic legislation to be a set of commandments that require "works" as opposed to faith and that gospel is necessarily contrasted with this usage of "law". Paul speaks of the law connected to works often. In fact, he uses the terms "works of the law" and "the law" interchangeably because he sees the whole point of the law being found in its requirement of works (315). Paul clearly understood the law as Judaism saw it to require human works to achieve righteousness but further, that for a Christian, these works could not be a factor in being declared righteous. It was not that Paul thought that works themselves were evil ("works" is in fact a neutral term), rather that they simply could not be a factor in our being declared/made righteous because we cannot possible adhere perfectly to the commandments outlined in the law. If righteousness could be found in works of the law there would be no point in Christ's death, for righteousness could be had through human action. That gospel and the law are at odds with one another is never spelled out, but is nevertheless a reasonable way to view Pauline thought (321). Paul consistently declares that the law is viewed as a set of demands of right action while the gospel declares that faith in Christ is the path to righteousness. This faith is not a demand, not a requirement as such, not a human work, but is belief in God's grace through Christ that all who have faith would be saved. The idea of righteousness being found through faith in Christ and not through works necessarily puts gospel at odds with the law as Paul saw it in a fundamental sense. Paul thought that the law witnessed the righteousness of faith, but also that sinful humanity pursued righteousness through their works of the law, as if their own actions could be the basis for their righteousness. Lastly, Westerholm makes the point that Paul's usage of the term does not refer to a perversion of the law by Jews of his day and that it is fully consistent with the Hebrew term torah (297). Some scholars (e.g., Cranfield) have felt that Paul's reference to the law refers to Jewish legalism and misuse of the law. Here, the term legalism often means that Jews tried to obey very precisely the precepts of the Law, not because they loved God or honestly wished to obey him, but because they desired salvation for themselves and thought that by following the law to the letter they could achieve this. This line of reasoning does not stand up according to Westerholm because too often Paul refers to himself as having once been subject to the law, or Jesus having been born under the law. Thus, how could Christians die to a misunderstanding of the law that Christ himself could not have shared (332)? Westerholm concludes that for Paul it is human action of any kind, not just action done in the spirit of legalism, that cannot accrue to humanity righteousness. Finally, in Hebrew torah means not only law but also any teaching or instruction. These meanings of the word do not imply the sense of legalism that nomos does. However, it is apparent that the usage of torah in Deuteronomistic literature does refer to the Sinaitic legislation that Paul is referring to when he uses nomos (340). That Paul sees the purpose of the law differently from Jews is not a result of misusing the word nomos or misunderstanding the word torah. In Chapter 17, the last of Westerholm's definitions, Grace, is laid out. What he is really referring to in a larger sense is the idea that Judaism at the time of Paul saw the path to salvation as being based on human good works, as opposed to being based on God's grace. This traditional Lutheran idea is turned on its head by Sanders when he says that Jews did not see their works as a system of credits and debits, hoping that the credits outweighed the debits at the final judgment. Sanders posits rather that in Judaism it is God's grace that brings salvation to Israel and that the good works prescribed by the law are the recipe for staying in the covenant. He thus does a great service to Pauline exegesis by highlighting that the Judaism of Paul's day did not find grace and works to be mutually exclusive. However, suggesting that salvation for Jews was only by God's grace obscures the fact that for them works were an integral aspect of being a member of the nation of Israel (351). As well, if remaining saved is achieved through works, that necessarily implies that salvation itself does in fact have something to do with works. For Luther, even this small credit given to human works in the ability of humanity to come to righteousness would be too much. Westerholm's conclusion regarding Sander's analysis of the grace in Judaism is that he does well to highlight the lack of distinction made between grace and works, but he denies the reality of the differences between Paul's beliefs about the place of works in humanity's salvation and Judaism's (351). Chapter 18 of the book takes a look at each of the Pauline epistles and how they relate to the central theme of justification by faith. In Thessalonians, Paul does not directly address many of the issues (justification by faith included) found in his later letters. The issue at hand in that letter was the salvation of believers from the impending wrath of God. Paul states that Christ's death and resurrection is the saving act by which those called, those who are chosen to hear the word of God, those chosen to believe, by God are spared his wrath at the final judgment. Though Paul never speaks of justification by faith directly, it is clearly implied that by faith and only by faith can people become saved (360). Nor is the faith of those who hear the gospel contrasted with works in Thessalonians, but as we have seen, that contrast is a direct result of later churches turning away from Paul's teachings and towards a more Gentile exclusive view of Christianity. In I and II Corinthians justification by faith is, like in Thessalonians, a matter of implication rather than explication (363). Again, faith in response to Christ's death is what saves humanity. By necessity this separates people into two camps, those saved who have faith, who are righteous, and those who are not saved, who do not have faith, who are not righteous. Faith in Christ is again also a divine initiative. But, justification by faith is not spelled out and is not a dogma of the Corinthian Paul. Paul went to Corinth to preach the salvation offered to all sinners (and all were sinners), that through Christ God cleanses all people of sin thus clearing the way for their righteousness. Only those who had faith could be a part of that community (366). Galatians, Romans, and Phillipians are the holy grail of Lutheran supporters of the doctrine of justification by faith. In Galatians, Paul is responding to the idea that Gentiles had to be circumcised to be a part of God's chosen people. Paul then attacks not just Jewish markers like circumcision but rather the whole idea that sinners could in any way participate in the community of God. He said that no matter what Jews did, whether they were circumcised or not, they were still sinners, that all sinners were destined to be judged unrighteous, and that the only path to righteousness was through faith in Christ because through his death God cleansed all sinners of their guilt (383). In Romans, the doctrine of justification by faith is fully outlined and described. It is God's response to the dilemma of the demand of righteousness from human beings, none of whom can fulfill that demand because all sin. The Jewish pursuit of righteousness by works is misguided not because the law does not demand works but rather because none can fulfill the law fully and because the path to righteousness is in fact to be found through Christ, by faith. For Paul, justification is then a gift from God of his grace, obtained through faith in Christ, not by doing the works of the law. Human boasting is excluded because it is wholly God's actions that are responsible for our salvation (400). In Phillipians, as in the other letters examined, Paul preaches salvation from the coming judgment. This salvation is, again, wholly a work of God's grace, with nothing humanity of
A "must have" for the student of Pauline theology Jan 16, 2008
What was Paul's problem with "Second Temple Judaism?"
a) It had been distorted into a form of hyper-legalism resulting in despair and condemnation, b) It had erected a barrier of ethnocentrism that led to exclusivism and boasting, c) Some of a) and b) but there is more to the story, d) Paul's "thorn in the flesh" just made him cranky.
If you chose a) or b) this book will help you explore each of these issues and expand your horizons. If you answered c) then you will identify with the author, but you should read the book to follow his analysis and conclusions. On the other hand, if you picked d) you should write your own book and add it to the ever-growing list of new perspectives on Paul!
For a survey and objective evaluation of the many perspectives on Paul, from Augustine to Wright, this is an excellent place to start. The first section presents a comparison, contrast, and overview of the pertinent positions formulated by the so-called "Lutheran" giants--Augustine, Luther, Calvin, and Wesley. The second section provides numerous viewpoints on the newer thinking about Paul from a wide range of contributors, roughly in chronological order, and includes a few "Lutheran" responses. In the final section, the author carefully develops definitions and terminology so he can frame arguments precisely to reach conclusions that, while drawing from the combined reasoning and wisdom of all the previous contributors, ultimately submit to scripture rather than tradition or fashion--even if it means stepping on the toes of giants. Thankfully, he does it without the rancor and strident polemics that unfortunately accompany much of the material on this topic, especially in the blogosphere. In fact, if you are paying attention, you will find yourself laughing out loud along the way.
In addition to being informative and insightful, the design and presentation of this book are excellent. The overall organization is superb, and each individual section and chapter presents its information and arguments in a cogent and systematic fashion. Some of the subjects are of necessity simplified, as this is a survey, but there is more than enough here to provide not only an initial understanding, but also a foundation on which to assemble the big picture, with plenty of sources to follow for more information on subjects that pique the interest. The bibliography alone makes this book worth owning as a reference.
In his "Whimsical Introduction" Dr. Westerholm states his intent to stretch our thinking and "learn much of the history of Pauline scholarship in the process," and even "discover an insight or two into the apostolic object of all the wrangling." Mission accomplished.
Paul was more "Lutheran" than you think Jan 29, 2005
If there is ONE book that a student of Paul must have in order to understand the whole law vs. gospel controversy then this book should be it. Westerholm leaves no stone unturned and has magnificantly provided us with a resource that Christians will always refer to in the years to come.
The book is basically divided into two main sections: 1) an overview of interpretations on Paul's view of the law and justification since Augustine; and 2) Westerholm's own assessment of Paul's statements regarding the law and justification.
The first section will provide students of Paul with a rich resource for those who want summaries of leading Pauline scholars on the subject - whether from the "New Perspective" point of view (e.g., Sanders, Dunn, Wright, etc.) or from the more "traditionalist" perspective (e.g., Cranfield, Schreiner, Thielman, etc.). In the second section, Westerholm gives reasons why Martin Luther, John Calvin, etc. were not far off from the mark when they interpreted Paul. Essentially, Westerholm opts for the more "old reading" than the "new reading." He does this by examining three major themes and what they mean in Paul's writings: 1) righteousness; 2) the law; and 3) justification.
If one is expecting a exact duplication of Luther's commentaries on Romans and Galatians, then one will be slightly disappointed. Though Westerholm does side more with Luther on this issue, he is more balanced and points out that some arguments made by New Perspective scholars have validity. Still, he goes on to argue that Paul worked within a "problem to solution" paradigm (i.e., that Jews and Gentiles are sinners in need of God's grace in Christ Jesus) rather than an "exclusivism to inclusivism" paradigm (i.e., that Gentiles need not become Jews in order to be included in the Abrahamic promise) when he wrote about the negative aspects of the law.
Overall, this book is a valuable resource on Paul. Considering that that there are many pastors out there who hypocritically and deceivingly call themselves evangelical, Protestant, and Reformed this book should also be used as a wake-up call to show how the New Perspective understanding of Paul is inconsistent with historic Protestant Christianity. Of course, these pastors can always call Rome their home, but they do not decide to, and thus, continue to poison the minds and souls of their listeners who are sitting in their pews. May God use this book to recover the true Gospel that has been lost in recent decades by those who wish to transform the evangelical church into another part of Rome.
A classic becomes a magnum opus Sep 6, 2004
What can I say? Westerholm's "Israel's Law and the Church's Faith" was a classic introduction to recent Pauline debates. "Perspectives Old and New on Paul" began as a revision, and turned into an opus double the size.
Beginning with overviews of historical figures who taught the so-called "Lutheran" Paul (Augustine, Luther, Calvin, Wesley), which place justification within the context of their broader theologies, this work is a welcome, clear-headed contribution to the discussion of justification in Paul. Westerholm offers some insightful consideration of numerous Pauline texts, as well as helpful correctives on numerous points regarding the NPP.
As with others, Westerholm leaves gaping holes and large questions, however. Although he is relatively evenhanded, one might suppose from reading Westerholm that certain NPP advocates were in fact a great deal more radical revisionists than is actually the case. Furthermore, Westerholm does not attempt to integrate entire classes of texts into his view of Paul, and his handling of righteousness (or in his words, "dikaiosness") comes across as rather too simplistic. On the former point, for example, Westerholm claims that Paul's problem with the law is that is makes demands to "do," but does not seriously attempt to relate this position to Pauline texts which (like Leviticus 18.5, which Paul juxtaposes to his own gospel) correlate the promise of "life" and "doing" in the Christian life (e.g. Galatians 6.8-9). With regard to the latter, Westerholm attempts to boil everything down to "ordinary" righteousness (with regard to which all without exception have failed) and "extraordinary" righteousness (i.e. the unique righteousness given as a gift to faith, based upon the work of Jesus Christ). The difficulty with this is that it sets Paul at odds against the Old Testament (which has three kinds of righteousness, including that which refers to general faithfulness apart from perfection) and against himself (Paul seems to assume this third category himself in numerous contexts).
But what can we expect, after all? We have yet to see a book that integrates all of these matters in a wholly satisfactory fashion. This remains an important, and indeed indispensable, contribution to the debates in Pauline studies.