Ethnocentric Legalism And The Justification Of The Individual: Rethinking Some New Perspective Assumptions -- By: Andrew Hassler
Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 54:2 (Jun 2011)
Article: Ethnocentric Legalism And The Justification Of The Individual: Rethinking Some New Perspective Assumptions
Author: Andrew Hassler
JETS 54:2 (June 2011) p. 311
Ethnocentric Legalism And The Justification Of The Individual: Rethinking Some New Perspective Assumptions
* Andrew Hassler is a Ph.D. student at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, 2825 Lexington Road, Louisville, KY 40280.
Those familiar with Pauline studies are aware that, since the emergence of the New Perspective on Paul, with roots even earlier, a shift has occurred toward viewing justification in more corporate terms.1 The New Perspective has been concerned largely with the inclusion of Gentiles into God’s covenant with Israel while downplaying the idea of the sinful individual before God in need of grace and forgiveness. Already in 1963, Krister Stendahl had begun moving scholarship in this direction, but it was E. P. Sanders and the subsequent New Perspective on Paul that commended such an approach to broader scholarship.2 This has led to readings of Paul that have differed greatly from traditional understandings, generating a number of new conclusions regarding Paul’s view of justification. While this new direction has been
JETS 54:2 (June 2011) p. 312
rightly appreciated for highlighting often-overlooked elements of Paul, it is also the source of new ambiguity as to how to conceive of Paul’s doctrine of justification.
Such ambiguity has created room for more thought concerning the place of the individual in Paul’s view of justification, as well as how this individual relates to the corporate people of God. My intent in the present article is to highlight a few ideas with regard to the former issue, while not ignoring the latter. Specifically, I believe there is still good evidence that the emphasis on the individual’s need for grace before God originates with Paul himself and not merely from reading Paul through a “Reformational” lens. The case has been overstated that Paul was not very interested in “inner tensions of individual souls and consciences” or in “treating justification as the believer’s personal experience of forgiveness and deliverance from a subjective sense of guilt.”3 While Western individualism certainly has influenced the issue, at times neglecting significant corporate elements present in Paul’s soteriology, this should not obscure the reality that Paul’s doctrine of justification contains a weighty individual, anthropological element that has been increasingly neglected due to the corporate, covenantal trajectory of the New Perspective.
This trajectory, in my view, is slightly misguided and cannot fully account for some critical justificat...
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