Justification and the New Perspectives on Paul by Guy Prentiss Waters

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This book does exactly what its title says it will do—and it does it well. The New Perspective on Paul (NPP) is a great challenge to the church today, especially in the area of soteriology and particularly the doctrine of justification. But, as the title implies, there is no one “new perspective.” Each major contributor, while maintaining areas of agreement, views these perspectives uniquely from others in the same camp.

Waters begins with three chapters explaining the history and ideas of the forerunners of the NPP—Schweitzer, Bultmann, Davies, Käsemann and Stendahl. It would be on the shoulders of these scholars that E. P. Sanders would stand as he officially launched the NPP. Two chapters are rightly devoted to Sanders’ teachings. There have been three prominent NPP advocates who have built on Sanders’ work. Heikke Räisänen and principally James Dunn are the subject of chapter six. But the popularity of the NPP owes most of its gratitude to N. T. Wright who has successfully convinced many evangelicals of its validity. Wright and his teachings are the subjects of chapter seven.

Having interacted with the views of the NPP adherents in earlier chapters, Waters gets down to business in the final two chapters. Chapter eight provides a critique of the NPP. It is here that the book contains its most important exegetical work—carefully analyzing the key texts that the NPP has distorted. The final chapter shows what is at stake for biblical Christianity if the NPP teachings are adopted.

Waters does a masterful job in his analysis, exegesis and refutation of the NPP. Justification and the New Perspectives on Paul is certainly not an easy read, and only those who are serious about the subject will likely persevere. But for those who are interested, and evangelical leaders should be, this is a book that must be read. Perhaps in no other critique on the NPP to date are the dots connected so well. Waters will give the reader a clear understanding about a very convoluted teaching; he will expose its errors and draw the reader back to biblical truth. I recommend Justification and the New Perspectives on Paul highly for anyone who is serious about understanding the NPP.

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