I’m going to be honest. My predilection lies with the New Perspective, but I was hoping for something more than what Dunn presented. Perhaps, this only solidifies the assertion that not all NPP theologians arrive at the same conclusions and helps me to understand why I prefer Tom Wright’s results, shaded differently, than others in the NPP (and why it seems that Horton spoke forcefully against Wright, who is not included in the book, but remains an ever present shadow). One of the most palatable things about Dunn’s essay is his admission that while there are indeed sticking points, the NPP remains open to revision. It’s not forever settled, but picks up where the Reformation left off – reformed, and ever reforming. He notes this on page 200 in discussing some of Paul’s “warts.” Further, Dunn allows for tensions within Paul and the New Testament, something that appeals to me in that Paul was himself continuing to explore and to be led by the Spirit in articulating the new life in Christ Jesus. Further, he calls for acceptance of these warts, tensions, and difficult parts in a way befitting a theologian and a scholar.
His view is simple, really, that Paul tensely showed that works must be manifested for the life in Christ. Further, he dismisses the notion that Paul was completely set against the Judaism of his day, but allows that Paul saw the Law as something to be done away with. His pays attention to Paul’s historical context, which surprisingly, was not post-Middle Ages Europe with a real forensic justice philosophy developing not just in theology, but in the political realm as well. The focus is still on faith, heating the argument over whether or not it is faith in or the faith of. I tend to stick with the latter. Frankly, I do not know how the Reformed get around the idea of total participation if they continue to rely on the faith in translation, but that is neither here nor there.
Oddly enough, Horton (first responder to Dunn) is barely 200 words in before he brings up Wright and then talks about avoiding caricature. Horton’s response is more of the same, “It’s not Reformed Reformed!” He moves from there to speak more to Sanders than Dunn, but this time, engages scholarship from Weinfeld to Levenson. With this, however, I must say that as of yet, this is the best from Horton in this volume. He expresses his agreements and disagreements, but not too polemical. He engages scholarship and Second Temple Judaism more than he does Calvin and Luther. In reading Bird’s response to Dunn, I am becoming more convinced of his point of view, which does in fact worry me. He takes on Dunn, not in opposition, but building agreement upon agreement and then allowing that Dunn hasn’t pressed far enough. His essay is concise and to the point, offering more support for the Progressive Reformed position than I had previously considered. Karkkainen’s response is rather short and almost apologetic for Dunn’s position. O’Collins provides a positive essay which helps me from going to far into Bird’s camp. We’ll see.
- Justification: Five Views (zwingliusredivivus.wordpress.com)