This article appears in the July/August 2006 issue of Frontline Magazine. It appears here with permission of the publisher.
By Albin Huss Jr.
The traditional Reformation understanding of the Pauline doctrine of justification has come under attack recently. Surprisingly, the chief assault has not come from Catholic or liberal Protestant theologians but from mainstream Evangelical theologians through an increasingly popular position known as the “New Perspective on Paul” (NPP).(1) Not only does this distinct theological perspective challenge the orthodox view of justification by faith, but it categorically rejects the traditional understanding that first-century Judaism was a works-based religion. In effect, the NPP charges that the Reformers, especially Luther, were so prejudiced by their own struggles with Catholicism that they falsely caricatured Judaism and, in so doing, misread Paul. Thus, NPP advocates have taken it upon themselves to tell us What Saint Paul Really Said.(2) Herein, we will critically examine this “new and informed” reading of Paul to determine whether it is accurate or aberrant.