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Justification and Variegated Nomism: The Paradoxes of Paul Paperback – November 1, 2004
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About the Author
D. A. Carson, research professor of New Testament at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, is the author or editor of over forty books. Peter T. O'Brien is senior research fellow at Moore Theological College where he teaches New Testament and missions. Mark A. Seifrid is professor of New Testament interpretation at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.
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Volume I of this series clearly evidenced that there was no one Jewish position regarding the relationship of law keeping to justification during the Second Temple era, thus disproving the assumed uniformity of "Covenantal Nomism."
This volume, "The Paradoxes of Paul" address the issue, "Did Paul really believe that one entered the covenant by grace (accepting Christ as opposed to Jewish birth) but then maintained his status in the covenant by keeping the Law?" The clear answer of this volume is "no." We enter by grace and we are kept in the covenant by grace.
A team of mostly evangelical scholars proves that "the works of the Law" refer not merely to the boundary markers of Judaism (circumcision, etc.), but even to keeping the 10 Commandments. When Paul talks about salvation "apart from the works of the Law," he is saying more than, "apart from becoming a Jew." He is saying that the Law is good, but when one uses it in an attempt to be justified, the Law cannot deliver. We are saved by grace through faith; God justifies the "ungodly," not the law keeper.
The authors, all respected scholars, take us back to the clear teaching of Scripture. If we look at Paul without a pre-existing template, they argue, we find that law keeping has no (positive) bearing on salvation because no one can keep the law. Paul concludes us all "under sin." Although obeying God evidences our forensic justification, it does not accomplish it.
As Moises Silva points out, "Indeed, faith is by definition the abandonment of our works and efforts so that we might rely solely on divine grace..."
The various essays take us through the theological portion of Romans and Galatians with a few stops in Philippians 3.
Besides addressing the issue of salvation by grace through faith in contrast to salvation by grace and works, the authors also address the nature of the atonement, the very real wrath of God that is directed toward mankind, and both the continuity and discontinuity in Paul (before and after his conversion). They also address whether he really was converted or just received a specialized calling.
With great scholars, like Mark Seifrid, Douglas Moo, Peter O'Brien, and D.A. Carson (among others), these essays are well done and devastating, I would suppose, to Covenantal Nomists.
On the negative side, because each chapter is an individual essay, there is quite a bit of repetition within this work.
Also worth mentioning is that this work is not intended for the layman. One could probably get by without Greek, but the reader needs at least a modest theological background, I would think, to follow these arguments.