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Pick up any recent Bible commentary or theology textbook, and you will read about something called the "new perspective on Paul." Seminaries have buzzed for decades about how they might apply to Paul the new light shed on Judaism. Some advocates of the new perspective conclude that the Reformers have led Protestants to misunderstand the all-important doctrine of justification.

As a result, the new perspective has stirred more than a little controversy. Ligon Duncan, former moderator of the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA), said new perspective theology "undercuts the certainty of believers regarding the substance of the gospel message." In June, the PCA General Assembly said advocates of the new perspective should report themselves to presbytery courts, because their teaching does not accord with the Westminster Standards.

Leading new perspective theologian N. T. Wright has repeatedly responded to his critics. Talking in 2004 with James D. G. Dunn, who named the new perspective, Wright faulted his critics for producing websites that "are extremely rude about the two people sitting on this platform tonight for having sold Paul down the river and given up the genuine Reformed doctrine of justification by faith."

So is this merely a squabble among Reformed theologians? Certainly not—some new perspective scholars also teach that Martin Luther's preoccupation with the Roman Catholic Church has led all Protestants astray. Do we now need to reframe our preaching and teaching to be truly biblical? British scholar Simon Gathercole takes on that question in this article.—CT Editors

For nearly 30 years, a number of theologians have argued for a "new perspective" on the apostle Paul and his doctrine of justification. Advocates ...

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What Did Paul Really Mean?
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August 2007

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