“How we construe Paul’s claim that one is ‘justified by faith, not by works of the law’ depends, at least in part, on the question we think it addresses.” —Professor Stephen Westerholm
What did Paul mean when he spoke about justification by faith, not the works of the law? That’s the question Stephen Westerholm explores in his study, Justification Reconsidered. And throughout the entire month of February, you can get Justification Reconsidered: Rethinking a Pauline Theme for free!
“To lift Paul out of his first-century context is to distort him.”
In his book, Dr. Westerholm carefully examines proposals by leading scholars such as N.T. Wright, James D.G. Dunn, and Douglas A. Campbell. Noting weaknesses in traditional understandings of Paul’s writings, Westerholm shows how these fundamental weaknesses shaped more recent proposals.
In a recent interview, Westholm shared why this issue of interpretation matters to the church:
“The social implications of what Paul wrote about justification have been duly emphasized by scholars of the New Perspective; but, to my mind, they tend to misconstrue (in various ways) what Paul means by ‘justification’ itself. Since the topic is central in several of Paul’s letters, its correct understanding is important for a grasp of Paul’s gospel. Since, historically, different views of what Paul wrote about justification have divided churches, we cannot understand current divisions in Christendom without grappling with the issue.”
He went on to say, “On an individual level, the ‘peace with God’ that Paul speaks of as a consequence of being ‘justified’ (Romans 5:1) is, for many, a crucial part of their Christian experience as well as of their Christian faith. The question whether traditional understandings of justification are based on modern Western distortions of Paul’s message is thus hardly of trivial—or merely academic—significance.”
Justification Reconsidered offers a springboard for deeper study on justification, providing an assortment of views from biblical scholars, an examination of the foundation of those beliefs, and an invitation to take another look at what Paul meant.
Continue the conversation
Through February, you can also get Douglas A. Campbell’s The Deliverance of God: An Apocalyptic Rereading of Justification in Paul for 99 cents.
Campbell suggests, “Justification theory posits a God of strict justice who holds all people accountable to a standard they are intrinsically unable to attain, and this seems unjust.”