The Moralistic Wrath-Dodger Romans 2:1-5 -- By: Zane C. Hodges

Journal: Journal of the Grace Evangelical Society
Volume: JOTGES 22:42 (Spring 2009)
Article: The Moralistic Wrath-Dodger Romans 2:1-5
Author: Zane C. Hodges

The Moralistic Wrath-Dodger
Romans 2:1-51

Zane C. Hodges

I. The New Perspective On Paul

Let me say just a word about the so-called New Perspective on Paul. In scholarly circles this approach is connected with the names of men like E. P. Sanders, James D. G. Dunn, N. T. Wright, and Terence L. Donaldson.

What they are saying amounts to a claim that Paul does not really clash with Judaism as sharply as many Lutherans and other Protestants have thought. According to this view, Paul is mainly challenging Jewish exclusivism. Paul, we are told, is insisting that Gentiles can enter the redeemed community by faith in Christ, but that good works are the way that entrants into that community stay inside it.

As you can see, under this conception, final salvation still depends on works. The new perspective seems to be implicitly Arminian, although a Calvinist expositor could accommodate himself to it rather easily. In the Reformed perspective, genuine entrance into the redeemed community only occurs when the entering faith results in the necessary good works.

I am happy to say I don’t have to consume your time or mine refuting this “new perspective.” That has already been very adequately done by Stephen Westerholm’s book entitled, Perspectives New and Old on Paul.2

Westerholm’s book exhibits thorough scholarship and is an incisive critique of this point of view. My sense of the literature on Paul today is that the “new perspective” has largely run its course and is beginning to erode. I hope that this erosion will prove fatal to this point of view.

But even if I’m not correct in this hopeful outlook, the so-called “new perspective” is seriously misguided. It does not really understand Paul.

II. The Moralist Of Romans 2:1-5

That leads me to Romans 2. This chapter in particular has played a prominent role in the discussions related to the “new perspective.” As a result, I have tried to give Romans 2 very close attention in my commentary that I am presently working on.

Romans 2:1 is addressed to a moralist. Paul’s words are:

Therefore you are without excuse, O man (anyone who judges). In fact, in the matter for which you judge someone else, you condemn yourself, since you who pass judgement do the same things.

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