Of course, this would mean that the Bible is not divine truth provided by heaven, but is simply a cultural product that provides narratives by which individuals can operate in community.
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Evangelical theologians have not followed all of these philosophical trends but have been influenced by them. In particular, Evangelicals have understood that faith, even Biblical faith, cannot and should not be understood only individualistically. The stories of the Bible are descriptions of experiences that enable Christians across all ages to understand the unchanging propositions of Scripture. And, God placed us in the church community not merely to satisfy our needs, but because the community — as each member does his or her part — helps us understand and apply the truth of Scripture.
What does all of this have to do with the New Perspective on Paul? The New Perspective follows the trajectory of the community emphases that have so dominated the trends of contemporary philosophy.
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New Perspective advocates look around and see those who call themselves Evangelical and Reformed little distinguished from secular culture on matters as diverse as promiscuity, abortion, divorce, stewardship, business ethics, care for the poor, racism, etc. At the same time, New Perspective folk look in Scripture and see Paul calling us to live as a covenant community that is distinct from the culture, united to Christ, united to each other, and transforming the world.
Recognize again that there are many strains of the New Perspective. It is impossible to say what is taught uniformly by all those who are identified with this movement. The Roman Catholicism to which Luther reacted taught that persons gained merit by moral virtue and religious observance made possible by grace infused through the sacraments of the Church.
The New Perspective folk particularly those associated with N.
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Wright claim that the Jews at the time of Jesus did not believe in this kind of legalism, but rather advocated the necessity of identifying with the covenant community by staying within its boundary markers that were defined by Jewish standards e. Unquestionably, Paul at times challenges Jewish legalism based on ceremonial customs, but at other times he also challenges the assumption that one can be righteous before God on the basis of moral behavior. Wright says this is an extra-Biblical notion.
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The sacraments are not magical, and few of the New Perspective advocates or related groups are willing to say that the sacraments actually cause the grace they signify apart from faith. By their baptism children are identified with the Christian community. They, too, come within the boundary markers of the covenant community by the administration of the sacrament. What this means precisely is hotly debated and variously expressed. There is no question that many of those who advocate the New Perspective are seeking to bring Biblical correction to what they believe are misunderstandings in present expressions of Evangelical and Reformed belief.
Their goal is to steer the Church toward greater fidelity in Biblical doctrine and practice. The New Perspective rightly critiques much of the North American expression of Christianity that makes faith merely a personal fire insurance policy that requires no obligation to others, little concern for the world, and little obedience to God beyond what satisfies our own pleasures. The New Perspective reminds us that we are part of a great story in which God is calling a covenant community to Himself in order to glorify Himself and transform this world for His glory.
Our calling inherently and necessarily includes works of obedience. Despite the desires we sometimes have, the Bible is not simply a systematic theology textbook. Attempts to force all the Bible into easy doctrinal categories have sometimes created an unhealthy rationalism that does not adequately express the human experiences, divine interventions, and salvation story by which God communicates His covenant love throughout redemptive history. Concerns about the New Perspective need to be divided into at least two categories: theological and pastoral. The first category will probably require sorting out over several years.
My sense is that we are on a journey similar to our experiences with the Charismatic and Theonomy movements decades ago. The Charismatic movement was concerned that the Church was not rightly applying the New Testament gifts of the Spirit; the Theonomy movement was concerned that the Church was not rightly applying the Old Testament law; the New Perspective is concerned that the Church has not rightly applied the corporate nature of the covenant. All of these movements have had some legitimate concerns, but all err in subtly moving the emphasis of the Gospel from a Christ-centered provision of grace to proper expressions of human performance.
So, I hope that I am wrong and will need to be forgiven. Still, I feel the responsibility to express my honest concern, resulting from the way these issues have been advocated in the contexts the seminary must serve. The zeal to prove others wrong, and even ridiculous, for not seeing these new perspectives has created significant pain. The advocates of the Charismatic and Theonomic movements were also intelligent, zealous in conviction, concerned that the rest of the Church was not Biblical enough, claimed that their positions were historic, and rarely stated a position that was clearly unorthodox.
But, over the course of time and through the sad experiences of numerous churches , those movements were shown by their fruit to be divisive, and they largely faded from view. WSC Of course, we must grant that there is every necessity of recognizing Christ as Lord, and living out the imperatives of our faith commitments in order to have the assurance of our salvation and express love for our Savior. In justification our sins are imputed to Christ and His righteousness is imputed to us 1 Cor.
Were this shocking statement all that Wright said, then he would be easy to dismiss as obviously unorthodox. In this way Wright avoids outright denials of Reformation theology, but introduces unanswered questions particularly since he seems willing to define faith as faithfulness that are inappropriate for one as theologically skilled and influential as he.
This new confusion about the interplay of faith and works in justification may cause you to hear New Perspective advocates compared to Norman Shepherd, a professor dismissed from Westminster Seminary more than twenty years ago for teachings that caused similar confusion. The issue has become most apparent in discussions about infant baptism. As I indicated earlier, the claim that the New Testament sacraments function as boundary markers for the covenant community is taken by some New Perspective advocates to mean that baptism makes a covenant child a Christian.
There is a sense in which this is true. Baptism does mark the child as covenantally connected to the Christian community. Our PCA standards even refer to baptized children as infant members or non-communing members of the church. The water ceremony does not cause the child to have saving faith, and the sacrament does not guarantee that he will truly believe in Christ as his Savior.
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Thus, in North American culture, we have not usually talked without qualification about baptism making the child a Christian lest we wrongly communicate to our people that the rite is accomplishing what the Spirit does by faith alone i. We must confess that most ministers in the PCA have framed their baptismal explanations to distinguish our practice from Catholic or Lutheran practice for listeners coming from a largely Baptistic culture. In contrast, the early Reformers framed their explanations to make sense in a largely Roman Catholic culture. Now, again, I know of no PCA minister who advocates an explicitly Lutheran or Roman Catholic view of baptismal regeneration, but some associated with the Federal Vision are so anxious to communicate that in baptism God actually transfers His covenantal grace to a child that they are pressing the terminological limits of our traditional baptismal vows.
Certainly there is much misunderstanding and mere sentiment involved in many of our churches regarding infant baptism. Recognition of historic differences among Presbyterians can also help us deal more charitably with one another.
get link These are significant differences in emphasis, but we have united in the PCA with everyone refusing to presume a guarantee of the regeneration of the children of believers, or to teach that baptism causes regeneration. So much of our confusion regarding baptism results from our inability to relate to the earliest Christians. They were the converts to a new religion in a culture of paganism or Judaism.
To be baptized was not participation in a sentimental ritual that everyone in the culture had undergone, but rather was identification with Christ in an entirely new community and way of life. Since the sacrament is both a recognition and a means of the grace being signified as the person publicly passes from one realm to another in the embrace of God provided by the sacrament , Calvin spoke of the believer being lifted to mystical union with Christ in the sacraments. Much misunderstanding of the efficacy of baptism could be corrected with pastorally prudent explanations i.
An early now retracted Auburn Avenue statement even indicated that at his baptism a child receives all the benefits of union with Christ except for the gift of perseverance and final salvation. Such a statement could only have been made if one had redefined a traditional understanding of union with Christ, all its benefits e. Redefinition of a number of these historic doctrines is being attempted by some New Perspective advocates including those related to Federal Vision and Auburn Avenue. The redefinition is sometimes an attempt to conform historical doctrinal distinctions to Biblical wording that we have trouble reconciling with the traditional wording of Reformed theology.
However, to move beyond this observation and say — as some New Perspective folk have — that not all the elect will persevere in faith or that some of them can lose their salvation creates a doctrinal crisis. So much of what the New Perspective advocates want to say would enrich our understanding if there were not such a willingness to discredit or dismiss previous teaching of Reformed doctrine. For example, there are wonderful benefits to reminding every Christian that he or she has corporate as well as individual responsibilities.
But it is destructive to teach, or imply, that our salvation is more corporate than personal.
We do not have to create questions about the nature of justification to remind those who are justified that true faith has real fruit. We do not have to make our sacraments sound nearly indistinguishable from those of Roman Catholics or Lutherans to teach the church of the real benefits of church ordinances.
I expect that the preceding paragraph would frustrate advocates of the New Perspective who believe that the Church has not properly understood what Paul or our Confession really teaches. They may feel that without the stimulus of arresting language the Church will not listen. However, such an approach mistakes the needs of the Church and the requirements of Gospel progress. Employees who act independently, who scrutinize the efficiency of processes and decisions and want to help shape them, constitute a critical resource for entering into the process of learning and thus the process of change.
This in effect will create and develop the new culture of collectivity. This is especially critical for smaller foundations because here just one or two permanent employees can make a considerable difference. The organizational culture and operational work of many foundations is characterized by a top-down approach and thus determined by the management: either by the founder s themselves or, in their succession, by the senior management, such as the manager, executive board, etc. The collective culture in HR and organizational development stands for a new understanding of leadership.
The role of the highest decision-making body — this is the board of trustees in the Robert Bosch Foundation — has changed over time.
It is now primarily concerned with strategic fundamental questions. The operative tasks of the foundation were consistently delegated to the management. Thus, the entire administrative office was equally and collectively in a reflective mode, in which it was recording the past and primarily providing self-assurance before creating and implementing new instruments, processes and formats.