Back in 1982, a fellow by the name of James D. G. Dunn gave a name to a theological movement of sorts which was redefining Pauline Theology. He called it “The New Perspective on Paul”. The theological movement was hardly monolithic, but there was a common theme in the movement which was “that the old perspective (the Lutheran and Reformed interpretations of Paul of Tarsus and Judaism) is fundamentally incorrect.” Perhaps the salient feature of this assertion is that the “New Perspective” movement views the Apostle Paul’s writings concerning “works of the law” to be merely treating such things as culture, custom, and rite as opposed to addressing a works righteousness (justification by works).
The “New Perspective” movement was popularized by Anglican Bishop N.T. Wright, and eventually much of it found its way into what became known as “Federal Vision theology or Auburn Avenue theology”. There can be no doubt that the historic Reformed understanding of justification by faith was being denied by some.
Clement, a first-century disciple of the Apostle Paul (It was probably him that Paul mentions in Phil. 4:3), wrote this in chapter 32 of his “First Epistle to the Corinthians”:
And we, too, being called by His will in Christ Jesus, are not justified by ourselves, nor by our own wisdom, or understanding, or godliness, or works which we have wrought in holiness of heart; but by that faith through which, from the beginning, Almighty God has justified all men; to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.
Justification by faith alone could not be much clearer. Furthermore, any dispensational notion of Old Testament saints being saved through a different means than faith is also dismissed.
If the “old perspective” on Paul is defined as Lutheran and Reformed thinking, then it’s less than five centuries old. Clement, however, provides us with a really old perspective on Paul…That which he gained while sitting at the Apostle’s feet.
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