Ep40-Self-Deception & Justification By Faith - The Problems of Theism & The Love of God Ch 9

Topics Discussed:

• The New Perspective on Paul
• James as a Critique of Self-Deceived Paulinism
• Mormonism and the New Perspective on Paul

Show Notes:


The New Perspective on Paul

Overview of the view

“One enters the covenant relationship (or is justified before God) by grace through faith, but the faith that justifies requires good deeds to maintain the covenant status. Paul is not addressing how a sinner stands before the holy God, but how gentiles can be included within the covenant on the basis of faith in Christ rather than by works of the Law of Moses.”

“The debate that surrounds the New Perspective is really a debate about the Lutheran and, to some extent, the Reformed (Calvinist) interpretation of Paul’s letters.”

what is an interlocutor and how does paul engage this person?

“Luther supposes that Paul’s interlocutor is a Jew who insists that justification is accomplished by works righteousness by keeping the Law of Moses and thus is a form of auto salvation or self-earned salvation by works.”

scholars say... “the covenant stipulates what God has commanded them to do to maintain fidelity to the covenant relationship, so works of the Law are necessary to remain in the covenant relationship. Jews thus observe the commandments of the Law out of love and gratitude to honor God and not as a means of earning salvation.”

“The real debate between Paul and his interlocutor is not about works that earn salvation and man’s inability to be saved on his own because of his evil nature, but about how one gets into the covenant

“E.P. Sanders called this pattern of religion—entrance into the covenant by grace and maintenance of the covenant relationship by abiding by the commandments of the covenant—“covenantal nomism.”

“The covenant is entered through faith in Christ as a matter of grace, and the covenant is maintained by keeping the new commandment known as the law of love by doing works of love.”

“the NPP tends to support the Arminian interpretations of election as a corporate election that does not support individual predestination to salvation or damnation. Predestination means that God has promised an inheritance to those who are found “in Christ” among the body of the saints. The body of saints as a whole has been elected and predestined to glory among many brethren; but no particular individual is necessarily destined to be a part of that body.”

“The point is that the sin that resides within us through self-deception is deeper than the actions we perform, because the same act can be done in either a self-justifying way or in an open-hearted way. ”

“The doctrine of justification teaches us two very important truths: (1) We don’t need to justify ourselves if we accept Christ’s gracious offer to be united in covenant-love with him; and (2) we cannot justify ourselves. If we try to justify ourselves by works of the law or any works that attempt to earn God’s grace, we only show that we don’t believe that God is honorable or righteous. ”

James as a Critique of Self-Deceived Paulinism

“The epistle of James addresses the same distortion of Paul’s teachings about justification by faith that Paul addressed in Romans. James seeks to correct a distortion of Paul’s teaching that derives from the slogan “justification by faith alone.”

“The key question is: “What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say that he hath faith and not works? Can faith save him? [<Greek script>] (James 2:14; emphasis mine). James answers emphatically, “No!” Rather than delivering the believer to life, such faith without works is dead. [<Greek script>] (James 2:26).”

“The key point of the entire discussion is that James makes a distinction between self-deceived faith and genuine faith.”

Paul vs James on Abraham: “Paul saw Abraham’s faith as sufficient for his justification before God—without putting it into the context of the rest of Abraham’s life. In contrast, James insists that Abraham’s faith would have meant nothing and could not have justified him in and of itself if it had not been manifested in his obedience to God by offering Isaac on the altar in Genesis 22. Abraham’s faith “works together with” (<Greek script>—synergei) his works. Faith by itself, isolated from the rest of a life that manifests obedience to God, is not sufficient to justify a person for James. Thus, “faith” in James must be translated as “faithful obedience” where the concepts of works, trust, belief, faithfulness, fidelity and love are all tied together in the word “faith.”

Mormonism and the New Perspective on Paul

“And we know that justification through the grace of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is just and true;
And we know also, that sanctification through the grace of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is just and true, to all who love and serve God with all their might, minds, and strength.
But there is a possibility that man may fall from grace and depart from the living God;
Therefore let the church take heed and pray always, lest they fall into temptation;
Yea, and even let those who are sanctified take heed also. (D&C 20:30–34)”

“...salvation is secure in LDS thought because everyone is saved, even though they may suffer wrath for a time. Only one sin is sufficient to cause one to fall from grace in LDS thought: open rebellion against Christ. All will be judged and receive according to their works, and all except those rebels will be saved. Thus, once one is justified, salvation is secure unless one comes out in open rebellion against Christ, which Paul interpreted to be equivalent to relying on the Law of Moses rather than Christ for salvation after one had expressed faith in Christ.”

“The same doctrine of sanctification is beautifully expressed in the Book of Mormon:
Yea, come unto Christ, and be perfected in him, and deny yourselves of all ungodliness; and if ye shall deny yourselves of all ungodliness, and love God with all your might, mind and strength, then is his grace sufficient for you, that by his grace ye may be perfect in Christ; and if by the grace of God ye are perfect in Christ, ye can in nowise deny the power of God.
And again, if ye by the grace of God are perfect in Christ, and deny not his power, then ye are sanctified in Christ by the grace of God, through the shedding of the blood of Christ, which is in the covenant of the Father unto the remission of your sins, that ye become holy, without spot. (Moro. 10:32–33)”

“the faith that is inherent in such trust in Christ must manifest itself in a willingness to be baptized and enter into a covenant to bring forth works of love. This covenant of willingness to stand as a witness of Christ through works of love is stated with sublime beauty and clarity by Alma the Elder:
Now as ye are desirous to come into the fold of God, and to be called his people, and are willing to bear one another’s burdens, that they might be light;
Yea, and are willing to mourn with those that mourn; yea, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort, and to stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in all places that ye may be in, even until death, the ye may be numbered with those of the first resurrection, that ye may have eternal life—
Now I say unto you, if this be the desire of your hearts, what have ye against being baptized in the name of the Lord, as a witness before him that ye have entered into a covenant with him, that ye will serve him and keep his commandments, that he may pour his Spirit more abundantly upon you? (Mosiah 18:8–10; emphasis mine)”

“However, I conclude by asking: Why the resounding silence about justification by grace in the LDS tradition? The most significant contact between the NPP and the LDS view is that the Restoration stands in relation to conventional Christianity as Christianity stood in relation to Judaism. The restoration of the covenant relationship through Joseph Smith has been referred to as a “new religion,” and it is—in the sense that the Christian movement in Paul’s day was a new religion vis-à-vis Judaism”

“The striking fact that the LDS scriptures do not adopt the identifying phrases of Paul related to justification by grace is not a rejection of creedal Christianity but a critique of it. The problem with conventional Christians is not so much that they got the doctrines of salvation wrong but that, even while getting them right, they engage in self-deceived self-righteousness. They rely upon the arm of flesh even while claiming to rely on Christ alone through faith alone by grace alone.”

Excerpt From: Blake T. Ostler. “Exploring Mormon Thought: Vol 2 (Part 2).” iBooks. “The striking fact that the LDS scriptures do not adopt the identifying phrases of Paul related to justification by grace is not a rejection of creedal Christianity but a critique of it. The problem with conventional Christians is not so much that they got the doctrines of salvation wrong but that, even while getting them right, they engage in self-deceived self-righteousness. They rely upon the arm of flesh even while claiming to rely on Christ alone through faith alone by grace alone.”

“the apostasy of Israel is not a matter of failing to say the right things—or even to do the right things. It is a matter of saying and doing with a heart closed to God that refuses to hear when he cries: “Hear, O Israel”!”

“Their apostasy and rebellion against Christ was not that they claimed that Christ was of no effect by words but that, by relying on the Law of Moses for salvation, they had by their conduct rejected Christ.”

“Yet let us never deceive ourselves into believing that we can have the joy and glory that come only from being in an intimate relationship of fellowship-love with God without keeping his commandments. If we believe that we can simply trust God once in our lives and all is done, then we have failed to grasp the type of relationship that he seeks to have with us. Our faith must be joined to works of love to be the faith that saves us in the sense that we can enter into fellowship with God—for we do so by entering into loving fellowship with each other here and now. That is also the message of the Restoration.”

“There are Pharisees aplenty in the LDS chapels, sitting on the stand and taking the sacrament first. They adorn the halls of BYU and high offices and write books about the one, true Church. Others speak at symposia and philosophize and commiserate together over how the Church has abandoned them and how everyone else is wrong but them. Perhaps its time to bring back the well-worn phrase of “justification by grace through faith in Christ.” It has been so silent in our ears for so long that perhaps now it can have a salient saving effect among us once again.”


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