No Baptism, No Justification -- Thoughts on article?

Discussion in 'Anglican and Christian News' started by Classical Anglican, Nov 14, 2014.

  1. Invictus

    Invictus Well-Known Member

    Posts:
    2,316
    Likes Received:
    1,222
    Country:
    United States
    Religion:
    Episcopalian
    Bingo. Good work. Sanders is one of my favorite historians. (I have read “Paul and Palestinian Judaism”.) Probably no person alive today knows as much about 1st century Judaism as he does. However, I had arrived at most of the conclusions I’ve stated here before ever being exposed to the NPP, as a result of my own personal experiences and conversations with observant Jews, and study of Judaism.
     
  2. Rexlion

    Rexlion Well-Known Member

    Posts:
    3,641
    Likes Received:
    1,842
    Country:
    USA
    Religion:
    Anglican Christian
    It's modern theological claptrap, not anything from the early church (let alone the Bible). I could show more details from Paul's epistles to prove that he never meant "works" or "works of the law" to exclude moral deeds, but what's the use? You'd disregard it.
     
  3. Stalwart

    Stalwart Well-Known Member Anglican

    Posts:
    2,710
    Likes Received:
    2,509
    Country:
    America
    Religion:
    Anglican
    For the record, I thoroughly disavow the New Perspective. And more importantly, the New Perspectivists have implicitly disavowed it themselves; we see this in the books of N.T. Wright: in the earliest works he's a ferocious "new perspectivist" making all kinds of wild claims and attacks (especially on the historic giants of theology, whom he positioned himself greater than); but in his last book after a decade of his errors being pointed out, he ends with a whimper, saying that there's basically very little difference between the "proper" understanding of New Perspective, and the traditional Christian views on justification.

    And that was in the 2000s; since then there hasn't been one meaningful work or champion of the New Perspective, to my knowledge; the movement is stillborn.

    Let's not confuse New Perspective with what I at least was discussing here. I am interested in orthodoxy. Anything "new" in theology is wrong to me; any kind of "new perspectives" are automatically suspect (and as it turns out, justifiably). So I speak strictly from a position of orthodoxy, lest there is confusion.
     
    Rexlion likes this.
  4. Invictus

    Invictus Well-Known Member

    Posts:
    2,316
    Likes Received:
    1,222
    Country:
    United States
    Religion:
    Episcopalian
    I was actually persuaded more or less of the correctness of the essence of the NPP view well over a decade before I ever knew it was a distinct school or who its proponents were. I started reading Sanders’ work on ‘the historical Jesus’ after discovering him by accident while I was still within Eastern Orthodoxy. EO rejects sola fide, so that was not an issue for me at the time. Some RC (and possibly EO) scholars have been intrigued by certain aspects of NPP, but ultimately keep their distance from it because it entails a positive reassessment of 1st century Judaism (including the Pharisees). It’s really a debate internal to Protestantism, which began with reconsiderations regarding whether Lutheran polemical attitudes were actually to be found in St. Paul. Krister Stendahl is really the one to be credited with the origin of NPP with his groundbreaking 1963 article.

    In terms of theology, I’m not terribly concerned with what kind of non-academic following it has, and I don’t need NPP to make my point vis-a-vis orthodox Protestant teaching. I know the Gospels and the 1st century Jewish context well enough from my own study over several decades. NPP merely confirmed (albeit in nascent form) what I had already suspected. Even a cursory reading of Church history will make clear to any objective inquirer that the American evangelical/revivalist take on justification is clearly an aberration without antecedents. My main area of focus has been the Synoptic Gospels, and, to a lesser extent, the Gospel of John (though I do have a more positive view of its historicity than is typical among modern scholars of the Synoptics). Thus, an academic school of thought revolving around Paul had only tangential interest to me at the time. I figured if I got Jesus right and then interpreted Paul in light of Jesus, everything would fall into place. Although I still think the emphasis should be on Jesus’ teaching rather than Paul’s, I am not as convinced as I once was that there is a direct line leading straight from Jesus to Paul theologically, a hypothesis that is complicated by the fact that Paul penned the earliest Christian writings, and is our first historical source for Jesus.

    As a matter of history, NPP is a long overdue corrective to highly inaccurate presentations of Judaism, which have caused significant damage to Jewish-Christian relations over the years, to put it mildly, in case anyone hasn’t noticed. That is the source of its interest to me. Some of the theological conclusions of NPP just happen to line up with historic Anglican teaching. Sanders himself, in his own words, is very much a “modern, liberal, secularized Protestant”, committed to a “low Christology” and the ideals of the “Social Gospel” (cf. Preface to Jesus and Judaism); supporting Roman Catholicism is the last thing on his mind. NPP is not a unified “school”; some proponents, like Wright (himself a retired Anglican bishop, whom I’ve had the opportunity to hear in person), is an evangelical (in the Anglican sense), while Sanders, like myself, is a liberal. In fact, just about every Protestant Confession, theory of Atonement, etc., is represented under the NPP umbrella. One can only evaluate the approach on its objective merits, not some “guilty by association” hogwash. I’d encourage anyone who desires a better understanding of the subject to take the time to read the books (especially those by Sanders: he’s easily the best informed and clearest writer of the lot, and I’ve never come across a single heterodox statement in any of his books). You’ll either agree with them, or you’ll attain a better understanding of why you don’t. Either way, it’s an exercise worth undertaking, as learning always is.
     
    Last edited: Jul 7, 2022
  5. Invictus

    Invictus Well-Known Member

    Posts:
    2,316
    Likes Received:
    1,222
    Country:
    United States
    Religion:
    Episcopalian
    I would also encourage anyone interested in the subject of the relationship of baptism to justification to read the commentary of Bishop Harold Browne on Article 11, which can be found in the public domain here. Browne was a 19th century divine whose work became a standard textbook in British and American Anglican seminaries, just as Bishop Burnet's had been in the preceding two centuries. In his commentary on Article 11, Browne came to much the same conclusions as Burnet, though the former treats the subject in considerably greater detail than the latter, such that his comments are far too lengthy to quote here, and it would not do justice to his overall argument to cite mere disconnected fragments. The entire chapter on Art. 11 is worth reading in one's own time. Browne demonstrated that the Anglican Reformers inclined more toward the moderate view of Melanchthon than the more extreme view of Luther, and understood 'faith' to be not the sort of faith that is mere belief in the truths of the history of Jesus, but rather the sort that is inclusive of love and good works, and that is active and living.

    Although just as determined to counter Roman Catholicism as their continental counterparts, Anglicans took a more expansive view of what 'justifying faith' included, and, following the Fathers, its leading theologians have always been clear that baptism is the instrumental cause of justification, with 'faith' (understood in the more expansive sense) being the formal cause. This means that from the 1600s all the way into the 20th century, Anglican clergymen in Britain and America were consistently trained to hold something approximating the view of justification I have described, rather than the modern revivalist view so many Americans instinctively take for granted. However, the latter view has insinuated itself into the broad American civic religious consciousness, and the fact that some self-professed Anglicans nevertheless reflexively continue to hold such views is clear evidence that former ecclesiastical and cultural allegiances have been insufficiently 'baptized' in the course of pursuing the authentic Anglican practice of Christianity.
     
  6. Stalwart

    Stalwart Well-Known Member Anglican

    Posts:
    2,710
    Likes Received:
    2,509
    Country:
    America
    Religion:
    Anglican
    @Invictus I think you should separate this whole point, from "The New Perspective" ideology, which is quite a separate thing.

    I think that more research needs to be done into the full meaning of the word "faith", fides, pistes. I intuitively sense that yes, American revivalism has altered the meanings of those words, and we need to recover the full depth of their meanings.

    It is somewhat embarrassing, as a Christian, to not fully know what the word "faith" is fully supposed to mean. It is indeed a hard word, a complicated word, and we should embrace the full richness of it, especially the non-English foundations of it.

    But let's not inject the New Perspective into this, which has not been shown to hold water.
     
    Invictus likes this.
  7. Invictus

    Invictus Well-Known Member

    Posts:
    2,316
    Likes Received:
    1,222
    Country:
    United States
    Religion:
    Episcopalian
    Just so we're on the same page, I didn't bring up the New Perspective; that was Rexlion. I'm happy to discuss it in a separate thread, of course. In my case, as I tried to explain, it also doesn't have as much relevance as it might appear.

    Otherwise, I'm in full agreement with your sentiments. :thumbsup:
     
  8. Rexlion

    Rexlion Well-Known Member

    Posts:
    3,641
    Likes Received:
    1,842
    Country:
    USA
    Religion:
    Anglican Christian
    No, I just put a name to the silly idea. The silly idea was brought up by you.
     
  9. Invictus

    Invictus Well-Known Member

    Posts:
    2,316
    Likes Received:
    1,222
    Country:
    United States
    Religion:
    Episcopalian
    I’m sorry, but that’s simply not correct. My countering of the revivalist notion that ‘faith’ = ‘belief and only belief’ began with a citation and discussion of a historically influential Anglican theologian from the 17th century, which has literally nothing to do with NPP. I doubt Burnet would have agreed with the NPP if he were alive today, and I did not bring up NPP because I don’t think it’s essential to the argument. The Anglican theologians I’ve cited already clearly didn’t need the NPP to make their observations. The method I was encouraging was simply to look at the different instances of how faith was used in the Gospels and in Paul, so that it would be recognized that ‘justification by faith’ is not as simple or straightforward a concept as it has often been presented in mainstream American Protestantism. I don’t need NPP to merely point out the variety of expressions Paul used in Romans 5 alone; anyone can read that for himself.

    The NPP is also not a “silly idea”; it is a necessary corrective to biased and inaccurate presentations of Judaism, that have largely been the result of illegitimately reading 16th century Protestant/Catholic polemics back into 1st century Jewish/Christian polemics. Anyone who’s spent any time reading 2nd Temple Jewish literature knows that the traditional Protestant popular-level understanding of Judaism is flawed. People like Sanders, Dunn, and Wright are among the top scholars in their field; at least take the time to read their works before dismissing them out of hand. :dunno:

    Even if you do take the time to study the issue and come to the conclusion that there is some flaw in their scholarship, that does not alter the fact that the historic Anglican position I have been defending is not as stringent in defining ‘faith’ and ‘justification by faith’ as its Continental counterparts were. Anglicanism has always taught that justification begins at baptism, not with a ‘personal decision’, and there is no way around that. It’s what our liturgy says, it’s how our theologians have always understood it. People coming into Anglicanism from a non-sacramental tradition must leave their old soteriologies behind or they will be practicing not Anglicanism but a caricature of it.
     
    Last edited: Jul 8, 2022
    Shane R likes this.
  10. Rexlion

    Rexlion Well-Known Member

    Posts:
    3,641
    Likes Received:
    1,842
    Country:
    USA
    Religion:
    Anglican Christian
    No, you introduced the silly idea that faith doesn't mean what the Bible says it means. You and @Tiffy brought in the idea that justification and grace don't mean what the church has always believed they mean (as if Jesus' redemptive sacrifice automatically bestows grace on every human being). I only looked up the source of this new, novel teaching and found that it has been given a nickname, NPP. But even among proponents of NPP there is great disagreement and diversity of viewpoints on the rationales (there is no real consensus), which should tell us something, and that is your "way out"-- you "don't need" NPP precisely because it's as theologically solid as a bowl of Jell-O.

    Faith is believing; a living faith spurs us to action, but the actions are not the faith. They are signs and manifestations of our faith. And we are justified through faith alone, not by faith plus good deeds (or loving acts or whatever). To be justified is to be forensically declared to be in right standing before God.

    Why don't you read, Justification and Variegated Nomism: The Paradoxes of Paul, and ponder 550 pages of information that shows the errors in your ideas, and then get back to us?
     
    Last edited: Jul 8, 2022
  11. Tiffy

    Tiffy Well-Known Member

    Posts:
    2,800
    Likes Received:
    1,279
    Country:
    UK
    Religion:
    CofE
    Grace is not just 'bestowed' upon. It has been extended to, the human race. Acts 14:2-3, Tit.2:11, Heb.4:16, 2 Cor. 4:15. The mistake that many make is in assuming that whenever they see the same word "grace" it always means exactly the same thing, i.e. 'counting as righteous, only those who believe'. This is not so. God's grace is extended to ALL, especially to those of the household of faith. We in the Anglican church are not TULIP Calvinists. Unfortunately not ALL of the human race ever avail themselves of God's universal Grace and may therefore 'neglect so great a salvation' Heb.2:3. Therefore Paul recommends that all should be reconciled to the God that is already reconciled to THEM, not holding their sins against them. 2 Cor.5:18-21.

    It is God who does the justifying. It is a judicial act, decided by the judge, (God), on the merits of each individual's case and on the basis of the Atonement of Jesus Christ God's only Son, the Saviour of the World. 1 John 4:14 God has extended his GRACE to ALL and recommends through His Son and words of His Apostles that ALL should avail themselves of it. John 6:63, 1 Cor. 7:21, (alegorically and spiritually speaking we are enslaved to sin until we have our freedom as slaves and friends of Christ), Gal.5:6.
    .
     
    Shane R and Invictus like this.
  12. Rexlion

    Rexlion Well-Known Member

    Posts:
    3,641
    Likes Received:
    1,842
    Country:
    USA
    Religion:
    Anglican Christian
    Grace is extended toward every human being (not the human race as a singular entity, but to each individual). However, most human beings do not accept God's saving grace. What they do not accept, they do not receive.

    Suppose I were to bestow a bank account in your name with a million pounds deposited in it. And suppose I tell you about the account and try to hand you the account information, but you refuse to take it and don't believe what I say. Have you received the money? No. This is analogous to the situation with human beings and grace. Grace is on deposit and ready for them to receive through faith, but those who refuse to believe do not receive saving grace from God; unless they do receive it through faith before they pass, they will die in their sins and will reap the consequence of the choice they made in life.
     
  13. Tiffy

    Tiffy Well-Known Member

    Posts:
    2,800
    Likes Received:
    1,279
    Country:
    UK
    Religion:
    CofE
    God's grace does not stop or is limited, because we have not believed. It is prevented from reaching us by our own lack of faith. To LACK faith we must first have been presented with something to believe in or not. I have not been talking about those whoi have rejected the gospel message of God's reconciliation nwith them, I am talking about the whole human race, every individual in it, that Christ died to redeem as a demonstration of God's grace toward US, i.e. the human race. 2 Cor.5:19, 2 Cor.9:7-9, Heb.11:6. The difficulty is at OUR end, not a lack of grace or a demand for faith BEFORE God will extend his grace toward us all, at God's end. God is infinitely graceous, the whole human race is only finite, it can be numbered.
    .
     
  14. Tiffy

    Tiffy Well-Known Member

    Posts:
    2,800
    Likes Received:
    1,279
    Country:
    UK
    Religion:
    CofE
    God's grace does not stop or is limited, because we have not believed. We are not able to turn off God's grace that way. It is prevented from reaching us by our own lack of faith. To LACK faith we must first have been presented with something to believe in or not. A choice has to have been made to believe in God's grace or not to believe in God's grace. I have not been talking about those who have heard and finally and completely rejected the gospel message of God's reconciliation with them, I am talking about the whole human race, every individual in it, that Christ died to redeem as a demonstration of God's grace toward US, i.e. the entire human race. 2 Cor.5:19, 2 Cor.9:7-9, Heb.11:6. The difficulty is at OUR end, not a lack of grace or a peevish demand for faith BEFORE God would extend his grace toward us all, at God's end of grace extension. God is infinitely graceous, the whole human race is only finite, it can be numbered. God's grace can't even be estimated it is so generous.

    sin indeed was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not counted where there is no law. Yet death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sins were not like the transgression of Adam, who was a type of the one who was to come.
    But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if many died through one man's trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift in the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many. And the free gift is not like the effect of that one man's sin. For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brings justification. If, because of one man's trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ.

    God's grace is on tap for all mankind, "And I tell you, Ask, and it will be given you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For every one who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!"
    .
     
    Shane R likes this.