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In Defense of the New Perspective on Paul: Essays and Review, reviewed by Amos Yong

Readers of the Pneuma Review should be warned that without either an adequate background or interest in contemporary NT scholarship, the reading of In Defense of the New Perspective on Paul will be demanding in many places. There are various technical points of debate, fitting for the halls of the Evangelical Theological Society or the Society of Biblical Literature and often debated within the pages of their respective scholarly journals, but these are for the most part practically inaccessible to most pastors and even informed laypeople in the Renewal movement. Yet those with interest in the scholarly debates will be drawn into the issues via Garlington’s engaging mode of writing, and those who persevere through the volume will be rewarded with insights into the text of the NT itself, as well as into issues in the wider biblical and theological debates.

One such issue of relevance for Renewal scholarship has to do with how to understand the relationship between justification and sanctification on the one hand, and between justification and salvation as a whole, including what Protestants call glorification, on the other. I make this connection as a pentecostal systematic theologian rather than a biblical scholar. What I have observed is not that Renewal (by which I mean pentecostal-and-charismatic, broadly speaking) biblical scholarship has engaged the NPP—they might well have, but I am not as up-to-date in this area—but that pentecostal theologians and, especially, systematicians have made some recent proposals at least consistent with, if not presuming of, some of the basic NPP proposals as defended by Garlington. For instance, one of the main points in Frank D. Macchia’s Baptized in the Spirit: A Global Pentecostal Theology (Zondervan, 2006) concerns the interconnectedness between the doctrines of justification and sanctification. For Macchia, the pentecostal theological emphasis on the Spirit means that justification can never be merely a forensic imputation of alien righteousness, but must also be a pneumatological impartation of the righteousness of Christ resulting in a transformed life. As an extension of this idea (although actually preceding Macchia’s book by two years), pentecostal systematician Veli-Matti Kärkkäinen—although he prefers to call himself an ecumenical theologian—has argued in his One with God: Salvation as Deification and Justification (Liturgical, 2004) that justification is intimately tied in not only with sanctification but also with full salvation understood as glorification. More specifically, drawing from the new Finnish Lutheran scholarship that has unveiled an emphasis in the early Luther on salvation understood as linking justification and what the Eastern Orthodox tradition has called theosis (deification, or union with God), Kärkkäinen claims that such a holistic soteriology is consistent with the pentecostal pneumatological focus on the Spirit’s work from conversion through to sanctification and final union with God in Christ. While both Macchia and Kärkkäinen interact with the NPP, they have done so (thus far) only in passing. Yet it is interesting to note that pentecostal systematicians are coming to similar theological conclusions as is Garlington, even if the latter approaches St. Paul from the intersection of an evangelical Reformed perspective and a covenantal monist hermeneutic arguably in the background of apostolic Christianity.

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Category: Biblical Studies, Fall 2007, Pneuma Review

About the Author: Amos Yong is Professor of Theology & Mission and director of the Center for Missiological Research at Fuller Theological Seminary, Pasadena. His graduate education includes degrees in theology, history, and religious studies from Western Evangelical Seminary and Portland State University, Portland, Oregon, and Boston University, Boston, Massachusetts, and an undergraduate degree from Bethany University of the Assemblies of God. He is the author of numerous papers and over 30 books. Facebook

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