A Gospel Coalition short essay (Justification and the New Perspective on Paul) by Robert J. Cara, author of the 2017 book Cracking the Foundation of the New Perspective on Paul: Covenantal Nomism versus Reformed Covenantal Theology, offers 3 broad critiques of NPP from the perspective of traditional Protestant view of justification, i.e. against NPP which, according to Cara (which maybe a misrepresentation !), asserts that:

  1. a believer's works are included as part of final justification
  2. imputation of Christ's work to the believer is denied

Robert Cara's three critiques are:

  1. That NPP selectively excludes Jewish documents that testified that works-righteousness DID exist, thus negating the premise that St. Paul was not arguing against a legalistic works-righteousness view.
  2. That although Paul's "works of the law" as primarily Jewish boundary markers (Sabbath, circumcision and food law) is what's primarily in view in Galatians, there is Biblical evidence for a more basic works-righteousness soteriology that Paul was opposing. This negates NPP assertion that to Paul there was no two soteriology (one OT and one NT) since according to NPP both are the same, i.e. OT/NT saints were finally justified based on faith in God/Christ and works.
  3. NPP does not include Eph 2:8-10, 2 Tim 1:8-10 and Titus 3:4-7 as part of their analysis of Paul's view of justification, thus excluding key texts that even NPP agrees how those 3 texts support the traditional Protestant grace soteriology. This shows that opposition against works-righteousness was "in the cultural air" of early Christians, something that NPP claims was non-existent in early Judaism.

How do Protestants who support NPP respond to these 3 critiques?

  • A cross-tradition Christian website Conciliar Post 2022 article In Defense of the New Perspective on Paul by Tim Arrington (part 1, part 2, and part 3) contains a good refutation but not supported by scholarly references from current generation NPP scholars such as N.T. Wright or Nijay Gupta, since E.P. Sanders and James Dunn have retired.

  • Dr. Matthew Halsted's June 2022 interview Playing with Theological Explosives with Matthew J. Thomas, who wrote the 2018 Mohr Siebeck monograph later published (with improvement) by IVP Academic in the 2020 book Paul's "Works of the Law" in the Perspective of Second Century Reception, contains a response to Cara's essay and Cara's review of his book.


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