As the New Perspective on Paul gained acceptance among a significant number of divinity faculty and seminarians in Anglophone institutions in the 1990s and early 2000s, adherents of the traditional Protestant view pushed back. The traditionalists point out that Paul sometimes uses “law” in ways that can’t possibly denote mere cultural boundary markers. There is some evidence, too, that Second Temple Judaism at various times and places lent itself to precisely the kind of credit-and-debit legalism the Protestant reformers saw, or thought they saw, in Catholicism. Don’t all religions, at least sometimes?
My own suspicion is that the New Perspective achieved popularity mainly because young Protestant ministers would rather talk about inclusion and breaking barriers than about the guilt of sin and the pointlessness of trying to erase it by a regimen of good deeds. That’s understandable. But surely the older message hasn’t lost its relevance.
Even in this permissive, materialist age, people go to extraordinary lengths to atone for their guilt. Consider the vast numbers of Americans who spend their days maniacally trying to prove their upright status in the eyes of secular deities—conspicuously announcing their support for enlightened causes, loudly denouncing bigotry and xenophobia, proclaiming their sympathy with the marginalized and their loyalty to ethically manufactured products. How delightful it might be to hear that salvation is the gift of God, not of works, lest any man should virtue-signal.
Many Protestant ministers would rather talk about inclusion and breaking down barriers than about the guilt of sin and the pointlessness of trying to erase it by good deeds, writes Barton Swaim. https://t.co/xBPxMSfdxb
— WSJ Editorial Page (@WSJopinion) May 17, 2019