Sabbath: Experiencing and Living the Character of God

don’t be sorry, frank…just understand that your stated position requires paul to be mired in hopeless contradiction, which i and many other believe he isn’t…

the clearest way to resolve this contradiction of yours is to see a distinction between the law paul teaches us to establish, which by necessity includes the seventh-day sabbath commandment, and the ordinances which he dismisses, which as you note, also include aspects of the seventh-day sabbath…

of course the other way to resolve this contradiction is to pretend it doesn’t exist, which is what you appear to be doing…i know you feel strongly about what you’ve studied for yourself…certainly personal study is commendable…but to be able to present the results of your study in a way that doesn’t depend on ad hominem for those who point out problems in your view is more commendable…

No, it doesn’t require Paul to be in hopeless contradiction. That’s where acknowledging what he’s saying about a historical rather than primarily experiential view of the passage of old to new covenant, the contrast between spirit vs. written code, and anchoring all of this in God’s gracious inclusion of Gentiles as Gentiles into the community of faith, brings clarity to us concerning what Paul is saying.

As long as one sees the Ten Commandments primarily as timeless legal code and not historical covenant as the Bible calls it, doesn’t see that faith in Christ and the fruit of the spirit itself is the actual new covenant fulfillment of the law, continues to split the law into moral vs. ceremonial components as opposed to a single contractual arrangement as Paul and Jews regarded the Torah, and continues to see works of the law as primarily moral achievement rather than the outward identifying covenant badges of circumcision, food laws, and sabbath observance, then one will be hopelessly confused as to what Paul’s main arguments and views of the Torah vs. the gospel were, and why he was making them.

Paul caught lots of flack that he was teaching Gentiles a moral libertine gospel and messiah, because of his de centralizing of the law. It wasn’t true then, and isn’t now. The Torah as covenant and its badges of belonging were done. This was Paul’s view and what he taught because the new covenant and new creation brought by the risen Christ through his spirit was universal in its embrace, and powerfully transforming, having nothing to do with Torah/law, belonging through that covenant arrangement, or organizing life by its written code. The Torah was a shadowy witness pointing to the reality that had now come.

New covenant believers were instructed for sure. Paul could pull freely from the law as he did from other sources for ethical and relational instruction, but his highest source for instruction was the example of the crucified messiah and his self giving love, not the ten, nor the Torah as a whole.

Additionally, there is not one shred of instruction for Gentile converts concerning sabbath keeping. Plenty of other instruction on other issues, none for that. To say it was assumed is to argue from silence. A poor argument either way. But, the silence speaks more loudly to me that it just was a non issue for Gentiles believers. Colossians 2 says it was for Paul, as well… unless one group was judging another over it.

That sounds familiar.


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Ad hominem? I attacked the logic and exegetical basis of your arguments. I never attacked you personally.


actually it does…it is all fine and well to portray paul as the grand solvent of the OC, including all aspects of what he calls law, a portrayal particularly rich given his pharisee background, until we read for ourselves passages like Romans 3:28-31, where we see, in the universal context of both jewish and gentile believers, that when paul talks about justification “without the deeds of the law”, he is definitely not talking about making “void the law through faith”…let’s repeat this point: when paul is talking about receiving the HS through the grace of god, he is not talking about removing obedience to law…he is talking about effectively obeying it, or establishing it…

recall that in an earlier moment in the argument in Romans culminating in this important point, paul defines law, not in terms of ordinances, but decalogue precepts, such as stealing, adultery and worshipping idols, Romans 2:21-22…even when he talks about the ordinance of circumcision, he is explaining that it is possible to be uncircumcised while keeping the law, Romans 2:27, making it particularly evident that he isn’t necessarily lumping all aspects of the torah under one umbrella, as you insist he is…the fact of this matter is that it is much more natural to believe that paul’s instructions to keep precepts that parallel what is in the decalogue are in fact drawn from that decalogue than to fantasize about “other sources” used by paul to give authority to his teaching…

even such pro-faith discussions as we see in Galatians must be tempered by the fact that paul isn’t advocating disobedience to law…instead, and given his obvious context, it is evident that he is talking against the common notion of the time, namely, legalism, or the assumption that one can earn one’s salvation through a strict adherence to good works, which is a very different proposition than not including good works in any soteriological formula…in fact we see paul - yes, your anti-law hero we know as paul - advocating the importance of works both in terms of active exhortation, eg., Titus 1:7;
1 Timothy 6:18; 2 Thessalonians 3:13; Galatians 6:9, etc., but also in terms of the avoidance of “the old man”, Ephesians 4:22, Colossians 3:9; or “the works of the flesh”, Galatians 5:19; together with copious instructions to avoid things like fornication, murder, idolatry, adultery, etc., etc…this kind of preoccupation with works makes sense only when we understand one of paul’s signature contributions, which is that we know what sin is because there is effective law, which is indirect evidence that paul is always occupying a law-filled space…in fact he cannot make this point any clearer than what we find in the brilliant argument he makes in Romans 6-8…

where i think your fundamental mistake rests is in your construction of a logically false dichotomy: observance of the law vs. faith in christ, as if christ had anything to do with disobedience to law on any level…what you are not perceiving is a third alternative, which is in fact what paul is describing, which is observance of the law through faith in christ…it is evident that paul sees aspects of the law, such as what he calls ordinances, as impeding faith in christ…but this is very far from making the case that paul is teaching that rank disobedience to the decalogue parallels he cites is part of faith in christ…

to be fair to your position, frank, you aren’t explicitly calling for active sinning on the part of someone seeking to apply paul’s grace and faith-based religion into their life…but by relegating the seventh-day sabbath, along with the entire decalogue, to something utterly irrelevant, or at best optional, you are removing the tool that paul gives us to identify sin…you think you are surgically excising the seventh-day sabbath without interfering with any of paul’s numerous admonitions against sin…but you are ignoring the reality that for paul, the law and the knowledge of sin are inexorably intertwined…the fact that paul is teaching a religion that rises above the legalism he was countering in his day does nothing to change the fact that your position is ultimately escapist and illogical…you have no real means of discarding the seventh-day sabbath any more than you have for discarding admonitions against consensual adultery, agreed upon lying, like we see in trump world, or rank robbery, which we also see in trump world…

in terms of pauline NC theory, your grand scheme of spirit-filled faith in christ collapses because it has nothing to keep it from being infused by undetected sin, given that you have discarded the concept of binding law, which paul explains is the identifier of sin…


You’re coming at this from a paradigm of Protestant interpretive tradition that takes little to no account of what this meant within a first century context, the context of Paul’s Gentile churches, or within the context of second temple Judaism.

Concerning one specific, Paul did speak of law, the law of the messiah which he differentiated from the OC in Galatians and 1 Cor. Nor did I ever say that Paul discounted good works. However, you seem to read all these types of ideas into what I’ve said, aside from the fact that you also seem to think that trying to let original context determine meaning means little to nothing when it is presented. The bottom line is that you’ve totally misread me as if I’m simply presenting a gospel of license. Paul often faced the same type of objections.

Torah/law, deeds of the law, covenant, etc. all carried meaning then that was nearly lost through time and within the reformation. This loss has been carried through to Adventism. What’s been overlaid instead are all the traditional ideas that you present about the law, the covenants, that I am also very familiar with, and with which I no longer agree. Ideas that I feel distort what Paul was saying in his own context and world, and that distorts the way we hear and apply his writings, and indeed the NT, today.

It’s as if we’re speaking different languages because you can’t seem to even hear what I’ve shared with you concerning what Paul was saying in his own terms, to his own churches, concerning their issues regarding gospel, Torah, covenant belonging, etc.

You also don’t seem to be conversant at all with the past fifty years of Pauline theology. Neither is much of Adventism. I didn’t dream up a whole theological scheme. I began seeing these ideas in the NT itself, and also discovered that many scholars had already been seeing this for years. Not that this should matter to you. Just giving you a bit of background behind my own thinking.

I think we’re talking past each other at this point. Peace!


Dear Frank, what do you think about NPP’s James Dunn? He took Second Temple Judaism into consideration as well as Paul’s positive and negative statements. Quite balanced. He argued against the on-going protection function of the law with special markers for separation, but argued for a new reading of the law in the Holy Spirit with the love commandment as lens instead of a narrow and restrictive reading. A reading that leads to trust in God instead of leading to awakened sinful passions as in the old covenant age. Other-centeredness now in the new covenant age instead of the separation in the old covenant age because there was not yet a constant indwelling of the Holy Spirit.
Also, dear Jeremy @vandieman: What do you think about Dunn’s perspective?

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Hi Kate,

I’m not as familiar first hand with Dunn’s arguments concerning the law. What you sketch out of his arguments sounds plausible, however, Galatians itself really lays out an historical end point for the function of Torah. It had met its telios point, its goal and indeed end, in the coming, death and resurrection of Christ and the giving of his Spirit. Paul argues this in various ways throughout the letter through historical reference and metaphor.

Dunn sounds as if he’s trying to soften those extremes. But, I would say that what he’s positing sounds like what Paul calls the law of the messiah, whose fulfillment is bearing one another’s burdens, the love of neighbors, and even the fruit of the spirit that makes life under the law and it’s written code superfluous.

Also, the idea that we need the law to continually point out sin as Christians is not getting what Paul’s arguments were about the law on an historical level. His point, especially from Romans 3,5,7, and Galatians 3, was that the law served that purpose within Judaism and the OC. It was an unwitting tool in the hands of sin, that exacerbated the entire human dilemma. Instead of providing favored status to those living under it, it actually served as an instrument of condemnation, excited the passions aroused by sin, and provided no way out from its demands and from judgement. Paul may have been reading his own experience into this, zeal for the law actually provoking his career of religious terrorism and murder of Christians. The freedom from all of this he found in Christ and his spirit.

With all this said, Paul was aligning the law with life in the old creation, and saying that the new creation brought by Christ and the spirit does not include this. Trying to impose such a covenant arrangement, or even cherry picking from it in order to impose observances for belonging, is creating the very type of separatism that Christ and the spirit broke down, and is actually an expression of sin’s manipulation of the law. It is pouring new wine into old wine skins. It is the type of separatism in which our own denomination actually engages… over ancillary matters. Look at our evangelism of other Christians and our official stance and attitude towards them.

The guide to life and indeed the standard that calls and convicts the believing community is the spirit and the self giving love of Christ. Paul cites this much more than anything else to bring correction to his churches, see Philippians 2 and the kenosis of Christ as a prime example. It is the self giving love of Jesus, that becomes the law of the new covenant community, far above anything else.

Additionally, there is a new book that reviews second century reception of Paul’s deeds of the law/Torah, and how they understood what he was talking about. Overwhelmingly, they understood the deeds of the law as outward observance of Jewish separation…circumcision, sabbath and calendar observances, and food laws, over seeing them as a moral step ladder to heaven after death. It was about belonging to the covenant people in the here and now… righteousness was not defined by being Torah/law observant, but by faith in/allegiance to Jesus the messiah. They saw this change, as Paul did, because the new covenant experience of Christ and his spirit was seen as universal in its embrace, and powerfully transformative, all apart from the law. This is what defines the eschatological community, a faith that expresses itself in unifying love, not badges of religious observance.

Although I agree with so much of the NPP, which is varied in and of itself, I find my views more in line with New Covenant theology. I mostly find myself just trying to read contextually and with an ear towards the cultural and historical background behind Paul’s letters… and find myself with this present understanding of things. Happily!

Thanks, Kate!


i’m not necessarily averse to some of the foundational aspects of the New Perspective on Paul, which i believe is new for the most part only to academics who have veered so completely from the stated pauline text over the yrs…specifically, i applaud dunn’s insistence that paul certainly occupies a panoply of moral law, even if there may be ambiguities between universal and jewish law that tended more than anything to otherize gentiles, with the not insignificant consequence of giving jews a false sense of not only racial, but moral, superiority and security…

where i think dunn, and many pauline academics, fall short is the ridiculous notion that the pauline letters, like the rest of the bible, are merely reflections of the cultural and historical background of 1st century life in the near east, and that paul’s entire ministry and martyrdom can be reduced to a concern with purely parochial and contemporary interests…what i find disappointing, but not surprising, in dunn is his failure to acknowledge paul’s stated context, which is the universal death sentence hanging over humanity, of which physical death is merely a foretaste, and which only his gospel, when received effectively, can thwart…that is, paul’s concern with gentile exclusion wasn’t merely reactionary against jewish exclusion, nor was gentile inclusion the main thrust of his NC contribution…even a cursory look at paul’s stated, unfiltered, text shows that he was operating from the realization, gained through supernatural revelation, that all of humanity, jew and gentile, are born into an eternally lost state, which means that divisive aspects of religious codes are not only useless, but harmful…paul’s impetus was much more urgent and visceral than dunn seems to credit him with…

strictly speaking, of course, and on a bit of a side note, dunn has even less grounds to abrogate the perpetuity of the seventh-day sabbath than many of his counterparts, who baselessly claim that pauline NC theology spells the end of decalogue claims…but i see no evidence that he recognized this, much less lived it…

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The NPP scholars haven’t veered from the biblical text of Paul’s letters, Jeremy. They’ve veered from five hundred years of Protestant interpretation, and have used all the tools at hand to understand what Paul was saying in the context of 1st c. empire, and second temple Judaism. Nor do they relegate Paul and his gospel to a parochial status. They look to rightly apply what he was saying in his own context to ours today. Iow, they have been trying to cut through the fog of tradition that we’ve been enshrouded in for years.


to the contrary, some of them absolutely have…perhaps the most shocking feature in this tapestry of veering is the notion that imputed righteousness doesn’t exist, essentially dismantling the reformation, when it is highlighted almost everywhere in pauline texts…and trying to reconstruct the judaism of paul’s day as a grace-filled religion, on the basis of a so-called new understanding of 2nd-temple judaism, when everywhere in paul it is clearly portrayed as legalistic, is quite brazen…it essentially says to us that we don’t know how to read, or understand the thrust of paul’s compelling arguments…but the NPP attempt to characterize paul’s efforts as a simple dismantling of jewish separation markers, including the seventh-day sabbath, is probably most dangerous of all…it is unacceptable license that cannot be left unchallenged…

in some ways, NPP seems to be just one more effort to absolve RCC of the excesses that forced the reformation, including its clearly identified beast of Revelation 13 status…it appears to be an effort to whitewash the world into a form of benumbed worldwide ecumenicism that i feel no burden whatsoever to support…

@frank_merendino and @vandieman:
Thank you, guys! Very fascinating and interesting debate.

Interestingly, Dunn very honestly said that he was not very familiar with Luther’s works.

Jewish texts from Second Temple period beyond the Bible are not one shoe that fits all. They are not all alike. Jeremy, you are right when you say that legalism can be found in these texts. Frank, you are also right when you say there was a lot of talk about Jewish separation markers which should protect ethnic boundaries and also a lot of grace talk and not pure legalism as assumed.

Actually, you both are so different in your approach, but both of your observations can indeed be found in the extra biblical texts. The question now is what did Paul address in a particular letter: legalism, separation markers, or a combination of both that depends on the specific situation of the particular letter?


You’re simply quoting the false accusations of those who oppose NPP. If you believe that, then you simply have not read people such as N.T. Wright very well. What they do see differently is that JBF is not simply a legal issue, but a covenantal one. It is about identifying who was counted/reckoned as being inside the covenant people and on what basis. This was the whole issue about the inclusion of Gentiles in the people of God. Was it through circumcision as the entry sign and taking on the yoke of Torah observance, or through joining by faith with Christ and receiving his Spirit apart from that. Paul’s answer was obvious. Righteousness/full belonging and fulfillment of the covenant’s terms was not by observance of the Torah, but by faith in Christ. It was by this that God unleashed the power of the Spirit to bring a new creation into being, a community where the former divisions by race, ethnicity, religious background and observances, and social status no longer mattered. It was this faith that issued forth in this type of unifying love that was the fulfillment of the Torah that Paul spoke of, not pointing his converts to keeping the sabbath, food laws, etc.

In this sense JBF is an absolutely ecumenical doctrine. Something that we are allergic to in Adventism because of our legalistic attachments to the gospel. All Christians, even with their differences, belong around the same fellowship table in Christ. We can argue about things like imputed vs. imparted righteousness, we can have different views on disputable matters such as holy times and food, such as Paul spoke of in Romans 14, but we still need to accept one another, as God in Christ has accepted us, as Paul said in Rom. 15:7.

It is that graciousness and unifying love that should mark out the church in the world. Jesus said the same to his disciples, “They will know you are my disciples by your love for one another.”

If Paul were to be here today, I think the thing that would shock him the most is the division in the Christian church. Over being doctrinally right??



Thanks for the clarification, Kate. While legalism along the lines of individual piety certainly is in the texts and existed in second temple Judaism, I would contend that it was still with an eye towards defining who belonged to the community. There were endless arguments about what defined the holy remnant, so to speak. The Essenes broke away to establish a pure remnant ready for the apocalyptic showdown. The Pharisees and their rabbis contended over how the priestly purity laws were to be applied to everyday life, and went out to teach the people how to be Torah observant, in order to be part of YHWH’s holy, vindicated people.

There is even the record of 4QMMT in the Dead Sea Scrolls, seemingly from the leader of the Qumran community writing possibly to a priestly leader in Jerusalem, in which he used the term “deeds of the law,” applied to priestly halakic codes, that he urged to be performed in order to visibly indicate and ensure covenant faithfulness. This extra biblical usage of the phrase deeds of the law gives a pointer towards how Paul used it in terms of Jewish identity in the wider Gentile world. It is also supported by second century reception amongst Gentile Christians of Paul’s usage of the phrase. It was largely understood as what visible Torah observances marked off Jews from Gentiles, defining who was a covenant insider, a faithful member of God’s holy remnant.

While individual, legalistic piety plays into this scheme, it is less frequently portrayed as some type of semi-Pelagianism, and certainly not portrayed as a moral step ladder ensuring going to heaven after death…something Luther and the reformers were preoccupied with and wrote against during the Reformation. While I agree that Luther’s ideas can be extrapolated from Paul, I do not think that these were Paul’s main ideas or focus in his Gentile mission and preaching of the gospel of the kingdom of God, now launched in Israel’s Messiah…Jesus of Nazareth.

In this, I think the NPP nails it pretty closely.



wright, more than other NPP proponents, is associated with the notion that imputed righteousness doesn’t exist…in his own words:

“If we use the language of the law court, it makes no sense whatsoever to say that the judge imputes, imparts, bequeaths, conveys, or otherwise transfers his righteousness to either the plaintiff or the defendant. Righteousness is not an object, a substance or a gas which can be passed across the courtroom.” What Saint Paul Really Said, p.98.

“The idea that what sinners need is for someone else’s “righteousness” to be credited to their account simply muddles up the categories, importing with huge irony into the equation the idea that the same tradition worked so hard to eliminate, namely the suggestion that, after all, “righteousness” here means “moral virtue,” “the merit acquired from lawkeeping,” or something like that…Imputed righteousness” is a Reformation answer to a medieval question, in the mediaeval terms which were themselves part of the problem.” Justification: God’s Plan and Paul’s Vision, p.213.

these statements show conclusively that wright does not believe in imputed righteousness…he’s mocking of the concept of christ imputing his righteousness to us speaks volumes, as does his denigrating the Reformation’s signature contribution to a medieval, and problematic, context…

here’s another not so winning snippet from wright:

“Paul’s doctrine of justification by faith impels the churches … into the ecumenical task… . [Justification] is itself the great ecumenical doctrine that rebukes all our petty and often culture-bound church groupings, and which declares that all who believe in Jesus belong together in the one
family.” What Saint Paul Really Said, p.158.

according to wright, and quite unlike any of the Reformers, who have a track record of god working through them (can wright say the same thing), justification is not a forensic declaration of freedom from the penalty of sin on the basis of christ’s imputed righteousness…instead, it is merely assured entrance into the covenant community that must be maintained through works…it is an acquittal to be ratified in the future…so sure, christ was righteous…but christ’s righteousness has nothing to do with us…it isn’t the gift we’ve deluded ourselves into believing we receive at conversion…

there are those who surmise that the etiology of NPP has mainly to do with restoring jewish pride, in the wake of their treatment during the holocaust…hence its insistence that judaism be portrayed sympathetically as a religion based on grace, a notion gleaned from scant and doctored evidence…but given its systematic, uncamouflaged attack on historic protestantism, especially the heroes of the Reformation, not to mention its overt equation of justification with ecumenism, my suspicion is that NPP has one aim only, which is minimizing distinctions with RCC…

i don’t see how any adventist can look at the full set of implications behind the relatively recent development of NPP neutrally…

No they don’t. They simply show that how he understands righteousness being counted or reckoned is different than the reformers’ understanding.

He is correct. The reformers had an entirely different framework that shaped their understanding of this from Paul’s, and that of covenantal Judaism. Being reckoned righteous was using law court language in the context of covenant. The judge counted you righteous, fulfilling the terms of the covenant contract, on the basis of faith/loyalty to Jesus the messiah as lord. This is tantamount to salvation. It is by faithful allegiance to Jesus and becoming part of his kingdom people and movement in this world, looking towards the consummation of the age to come. The Reformers overlaid theological categories onto Paul’s arguments that simply were not there, or that lurked in the background.

Right on point. The idea of righteousness as any of these things muddies up Paul’s entire arguments and understanding of the covenantal basis of righteousness. For sure, someone such as Wright does not disconnect this from the forgiveness of sin, “blessed is he whose sin is covered/forgiven,” or that this is a free gift, as Paul does in Romans 4. But the basis of Paul’s teaching here and in Galatians, was Gen. 15:6, Abraham believed God and it was counted to him as righteousness. This entire aspect of Paul’s argument had nothing to do with being covered by Christ’s righteousness as a sinner. It had everything to do with the fact that God made covenant promises to Abraham, swore by himself to keep them, and Abraham, seeing his own inability, and trusting God’s ability to do what he promised, believed, trusted, and threw his entire lot in with God. This faith was counted to him as righteousness…iow, this is how Abraham fulfilled his end of the covenant contract. He received this status before being circumcised, hence Paul’s extended argument that Gentiles did not have to become circumcised Torah observant Jews, in order to be counted righteous/covenant faithful. They needed to believe, trust, and throw in their lot with Jesus as Lord, which of course brought forgiveness and release from the power of sin and death, and they would be blessed along with believing Abraham.

This is absolutely a winning snippet! The first time Paul ever mentioned JBF in his letters was in connection with Peter leading a Jewish walkout in Antioch from the fellowship table with Gentiles. Paul confronted him, told him that he was walking totally at odds with the truth of the gospel, and proceeded to say that Jews and Gentiles were justified before God, IOW counted as equally forgiven, faithful members of God’s covenant people, on the basis of faith in and loyalty to the Messiah Jesus, and not by circumcision or whether or not a Gentile believer was eating a ham sandwich at the table. JBF in this setting is entirely ecumenical, and should still be so today! It is how Paul originally intended it, in the context of Jewish/Gentile Christian unity and equality before God and in the church, and in their belonging around the same table as family in the Lord. It was not primarily argued by him as a way to assuage our individual, guilty consciences, as Luther and modern, western Protestantism later did.

It was not devoid of grace. I’ve read enough rabbinic statements to see that this was so. The problem was the idea that God’s grace would favor them above everyone else, a parochialism and separatism that Paul continually fought in light of Gentiles now being equally included as Gentiles, not as Torah observant Jews.

Now you attack the man himself. How do you know that God isn’t working through him to bring fresh understanding to the church, and to move the work of the gospel forward into the 21st c? Just because you disagree with him? Just because certain Adventist or conservative Protestants disagree with him?

Your disagreements and many of theirs are often done by caricaturing his arguments, and misreading cherry picked quotes, as I think you’ve done here. Don’t be so quick in your condemnation.

I don’t see it neutrally. I see it as wonderful breath of fresh air that can move the church forward from giving 16th c. answers to 19th c. questions!



The attacking of the idea that justification by faith is how one is determined as part of the covenant people as opposed to the deeds of the law, and that this status is to be maintained by works, is a way of trying to make the NPP sound like heresy to Protestants. It is not. It plays on the Protestant fear of works contributing to ones individual salvation.

Paul wrote that belonging, from beginning to end, was maintained through faith in/loyalty to Christ. This was also described by him as keeping in step with the Spirit, continually putting to death the deeds of the flesh through the Spirit, offering ourselves as living sacrifices and being continually transformed by the renewing of our minds, walking worthily of the calling with which which we were called, faith expressing itself in love, etc.

Iow, faith in Christ calls all to active participation in the new life of his kingdom. It is a faith that has real, practical shape and expression. It’s like making it onto the football team. One joins in order to play. One will be given a position or role to play on the team, according to their abilities. If one refuses to play, they won’t remain on the team. We were saved by grace, not by works… with the idea that we are God’s workmanship, created by him to do good in the world. We all have joined up with a part to play, according to how God has gifted and called us, for the building up of the team, his body, in love.

This isn’t heretical, nor does it find its origins in NPP. It is found in Paul’s letters. All over the place. It is what Jesus modeled and taught. It is what our purpose is, to bring what is good to life in the world, for the well being of all.


Thank you, Frank, for your detailed response and your profound ideas. I benefit from your theological input as you already know. That doesn’t necessarily mean I see everything the way you do, but we have some similar thought processes or often observe similar things or have similar questions. Btw, I have not forgotten that I owe you an excerpt from NT Wright’s biography of Paul; I am just pre-Christmas busy.

Yes, I am familiar with 4QMMT; a text that seemed to show up at the right time; very interesting piece. And I have seen that almost all groups claim it for their own particular agenda: messianic Jews, NPP scholars, etc.

From what I read so far, some NPP scholars didn’t take all of Luther’s works into consideration. He is more balanced than people think. You find kingdom ideas and walking according to the Spirit in his works. He even argued against separation from fellow Christians and wrote about how to apply this in his day and age. There are not just ideas about individual salvation in his works, although this was one of his (or the) major interests.

The same goes for some Adventists that deal with Luther’s ideas. I think both groups would benefit from reading him more and better before putting him in a box. Knowing about his contribution only through presentations of other scholars or writers doesn’t do justice to this man.

And don’t we all view the past through our lens and age up to a certain degree? The only honest way of scholars of theology and other fields like historiography is to acknowledge my lens and make it transparent for the reader.

Off topic:
Merry Christmas, dear Frank!
Merry Christmas to all Spectrumites, the current participants, the readers, and also our not forgotten beloved former participants (we miss you :revolving_hearts: and bless you)!

“Blessed is the Lord God of Israel, for He has visited and redeemed his people, and has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of His servant David.” (Luke 1:68-69)

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Thanks, Kate! I would agree with the need to see more balance in Luther. Let’s say that Luther’s own followers and descendants haven’t done that either. Modern evangelical Protestantism has developed a gospel and view of justification by faith that is centered almost solely on the individual’s legal standing with God, and interior psychological state and experience… the assuaging of a guilty conscience and inner peace, and the assurance of going to heaven because of being justified.

Stendahl’s 1963 article, “Paul and the Introspective Conscience Of The West,” lays out the issues very well, concerning how western Christian interpretive tradition has gone so far afield from where Paul was concerning these issues and the gospel itself, reading our own issues into his letters. He was even the first to coin the phrase new perspective on Paul.

Adventism largely runs on this train track, with the added baggage of perfectionism, separation from other Christians based on sabbath and food laws, and judgement based on law keeping and perfection. Throw in that Christ is viewed as a covering from God’s wrath, and that God looks at Christ, not me, which I find increasingly difficult to see in the NT, and what’s left is a theological mess that is detached from and even at odds with Paul’s concerns and theology.

The whole picture of God and salvation is almost exclusively individualistic and legal/forensic, rather than covenantal, communal, and relational. As I said earlier, it’s giving 16thc answers to 19thc questions. I prefer 1stc answers to 21stc questions and issues!

Anyway, have a peaceful and joyous Christmas, Kate! Same to all!


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NPP is something i’ve been aware of for some time, mainly through reading some of the writings of dunn that i’ve happened to come across…as i’ve said, there’s a good deal in it that concords with textual paul, that doesn’t depend on a characterization of the judaism of paul’s day as a religion of grace (and this particular assumption, i think, is part of the weakness of the founding impetus for NPP that immediately raises serious red flags)…

certainly the cultural divide between jews and gentiles was an important challenge in paul’s ministry, albeit not uniquely so, as we see chronicled in the Council of Jerusalem, discussed in Acts 15, and we do well to keep in mind that this is part of what paul was dealing with…but to suggest that this was the thrust of paul’s all-important ministry is to inject a fatal lightness to the extreme boundaries of unearned original sin on the one hand, and unearned justification and eternal life on the other, that paul everywhere expounds on in much more depth than any other bible writer…the fond NPP goal of community belonging doesn’t do justice to the fabric of paul’s teaching, which is far more fraught than the plight of a lonely gentile standing on the outside, wistfully looking into what he isn’t allowed to enter into…

now that kate has brought it up, and i’ve had a chance to do additional reading, i can see that NPP isn’t something i can take seriously…it is superficial…it doesn’t reach into the core of the soul of a thinking or feeling person enlightened on its true fallen, sin-riddled state…and because it doesn’t capture the dimensions of the problem dealt with in paul, it altogether fails to deliver what can compete with what paul’s gospel, as captured in the unfiltered text, offers…i look at NPP like i look at catholicism: there are wonderful things mixed in with what is outright dangerous…in terms of its over-all presentation, my feeling is that it must be rejected…

the only religion i see that doesn’t require constant guarded scrutiny is the adventism articulated in egw, irrespective of where our church actually is…here i can let my guard down, and feast on soul food straight from heaven…we are living in a time, predicted by egw, where literally every shade of doctrine and belief is in circulation…satan knows and feels that his time is shorter every day, and that the lake of fire awaits…like trump, he’s running out of time…thank god for the bible…thank god for egw…thank god for the ability to discern the spirits, and detect where certain movements are heading…

the only thing i look for now with keen anticipation is the emergence of another true prophet of god…i have no doubt that this will occur, and that it will occur within official adventism…but will he or she come out of africa, or canada, or europe, or australia, or the u.s. again…and will this news break here on Spectrum, or will it break in the Review…these are questions i ask myself often…the gift of prophecy is the agency through which the church has always advanced in the past, and i believe it’s the agency through which we’ll advance in the future…one thing’s for sure: anyone claiming this supernatural gift will be subjected to a LOT of scrutiny from a lot of knowledgeable people…

Sure, Jeremy. Keep on with whatever floats your boat.