Justification By Faith – In the Story of Israel & the Nations

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Over at P.OST theologian, Andrew Perriman, has posted an article in which he looks to faithfully summarise what justification is within the actual biblical framework. Perriman works within more of a narrative-historical framework, seeing Scripture as first and foremost a historical document rather than a systematic textbook.

He begins by summarising the usual understanding of justification:

The classic doctrine of justification is roughly that God declares righteous—and will declare righteous at the final judgment—the sinner who has faith in Jesus. There is nothing that we can do to make ourselves right with God—no works of any religious or moral “law”. The righteousness of Jesus may be transferred or “imputed” to us, but even then, it’s never really ours; it remains, in effect, on loan. Justification does not mean that we are right. It means that we have Christ’s rightness.

But, as expected, Perriman begins by challenging this notion, particularly with these words: Continue reading

What Saint Paul Really Said

I have a plethora of books which I’ve finished in recent months and would like to ‘catch-up’ on some reviews. So here is the first of about 6 or 7 that I hope to post over the coming weeks. Hold me to it!

Recently I viewed a video teaching in which one theologian made a humourous remark about N.T. Wright having now published more books than he himself has read. It seems that Wright does churn out one book per year (or more?), with his new one being released in a week’s time, How God Became King: The Forgotten Story of the Gospels.

But a few months back, I purchased a copy of one of Tom Wright’s earlier works from 15 years ago. That book was not about Jesus and the Gospels, but about Paul - What Saint Paul Really Said: Was Paul of Tarsus the Real Founder of Christianity?

The book stands within a long line of works on Pauline studies that has come out over the past century. And that is just how Wright begins the book – looking at specific writings on Pauline studies from the past 100 years, including such people as Albert Schweitzer, Rudolph Bultmann, W.D. Davies, Ernst Käsemann and E.P. Sanders. Wright lays out the questions and perspectives that each of these men have brought to the table as they tried to grasp the teaching of the greatest convert to Christ in the history of mankind. This, of course, laid the groundwork for Wright to jump in and make his own contribution, one that has normally been identified within the framework of the ‘new’ Pauline perspective. Continue reading

Perriman’s Challenging Series on the Holy Spirit

I appreciate good and thought-provoking writings about the Holy Spirit. Though they are usually within the realm of the oft debates between continuationism and cessationism, it is good to read something outside the ‘normative’ discussions.

I also appreciate some of the foundations of the narrative-historical perspective from writers like Andrew Perriman. The narrative-historical perspective is not so much about producing abstract systematic theology, such as Trinitarianism or charismatic pneumatology, though foundational tenets of the faith are not denied. Rather, it is about understanding Scriptural statements within the specific context of the Scripture’s narrative, which comes to us from a particular historical framework of first century, second temple Jewish thought. Many theologians refer to this as the grammatical-historical hermeneutic. But I think the more nuanced narrative-historical method is looking to take up this hermeneutic of Scripture with even more focused attention. Continue reading

Narrative Theology, Western Christendom & Perriman

In his most recent post, Andrew Perriman summarises his very challenging perspective on understanding the New Testament, theology, the fall of western Christendom, and what this all means for the church today. He gives 3 summary points:

  1. that the main narrative trajectory of the New Testament lands at God’s judgment of the world of Greek-Roman paganism and the inauguration of a new age in which Christ is confessed as Lord by the nations;
  2. that that new age of European Christendom is now being brought to an end by the combined forces of rationalism and pluralism, much as the age of second temple Judaism was brought to an end by the forces of empire;
  3. that one of the moves that the church has to make in response to the current crisis is to recover a sense of the historical dynamic of the New Testament in relation to Israel’s story and to reconsider how that dynamic gives impetus to the church today.
He goes on to share how this all played out in moving from what the text actually was in its historical context and what it became in later centuries: