Tuesday, August 21, 2007


Forgive me the plagiarism of quoting a brother in my church, but I thought his rendering of several verses in Galatians was excellent. It's a dynamic paraphrase, in the spirit of The Living Bible, only I'm calling this the Kyle Justice Version (KJV). Wherever the Law is mentioned, he was to insert something about that thing that has become "Law" in our day:

"No one is made right with God by trying to be a good Christian." Gal. 2:16

"In fact, trying to please God is an impossible task. When I quit trying, then I really began to live." Gal. 2:19

"If I could have pleased God by trying hard enough, then Christ's death would have been unnecessary." Gal. 2:21

"See your Lord on the Cross and think about it for a moment. Did you receive the Spirit by trying hard or by simply trusting Him? Do you really believe that you can improve on what the Spirit began in you? Does God continue to bless you because of His grace or because of your determined effort?" Gal. 3:1-5

"Trying to live the Christian life is a miserable curse. Christ removed this curse from us by swallowing it up on the Cross. Now, by simply believing and trusting Him, we have an invitation to enjoy every spiritual blessing with all the saints." Gal. 3:13-14

"But I will say this about trying to be a good Christian. It will sooner or later drive you closer to Christ and to your brothers and sisters. You will finally give up trying and find peace and rest in His Body. At last, in utter freedom and full assurance of your place in God's family, you will cry out, 'Abba! Father! I am your beloved son!'" Gal. 3:24-29; 4:6

"Christ has truly and completely set us free, so stop trying to please God by doing all the right things. Let the Spirit lead the way. He alone can live the Christian life." Gal. 5:1,18

Thanks for sharing, Kyle.


Anonymous Eric said...

Thanks a lot Kyle! And thank you, Neil, for sharing this in cyberspace.... This is sooooo true!
Eric, Almere, The Netherlands

4:52 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


4:13 PM  
Blogger Mike Morrell said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

11:24 AM  
Blogger Mike Morrell said...

There is of course the ring of truth in this; but there is, I'm beginning to feel, the seeds of a kind of falsely-dichotomous falsehood in it as well, that both demonizes Judaism (or caricatures it, at the very least) and sets us up for nongrowth and failure as contemporary friends and followers of Jesus.

I've been following Scot McKnight's helpful recap of the (not-so) New Perspective on Paul, and it has me (once again) rethinking everything.

Basically, the NPP--as elucidated by Sanders, Dunn, and Wright--attempts to be faithful to what we now know about first-century (and earlier and later Judaism) and Paul in his original context. It challanges the reworking of later Reformers, and "Augustinian anthropology," which posits:

1. Humans are born in original sin.
2. Humans are bound to their sinful natures.
3. Humans have an incurable itch to justify themselves and seek merit.
4. But humans cannot please God because they are bound to those sinful natures that cannot please God.
5. Humans are therefore “naturally” condemned before God.
6. They are in need of God’s awakening grace and new life — through the Holy Spirit.
7. The only way out of this condition of self-justification and merit-seeking is to surrender that selfish, proud self-image and cast oneself on God in the mercy of Christ through the regenerating power of the Spirit.

A set of propositions I find increasingly untenable, in both Scripture and my personal experience both with humanity and the character of God. Anyway...

Scot has about five short-ish blog posts (if you don't read the comments, though some of those are helpful as well), and I'd love to know what you think about the above-posted KJV (love it!) in light of them.

But I wasn't planning on commenting today to sew "doubtful disputations" on ye olde blog--I came to bring good tidings of great joy! Two absolutely darling people have started blogging recently. One is yours truly.

The other is Brittian Bullock, whose blog, Sensual Jesus, uplifts and inspires.

I'll Blogroll you if you Blogroll me. : )

11:30 AM  
Blogger Neil said...

For what it's worth, the guy who did the above translation actually knows E.P. Sanders, the father of the NPP.

He used to meet him for beers at a pub close to Duke, where he had him for a class.

Maybe he should chime in and give his take on the New Perspective.

12:23 PM  
Blogger Mike Morrell said...

That would be awesome! Of course, as McKnight mentions, Sanders nurtured NPP in its infancy, and Wright and especially Dunn really took it from there. There could be valid critiques of a Sanders-exclusive take that wouldn't necessarily be valid for the whole. (Sanders himself acknowledges this, I think...incidentally, Christianity Today did a decent story on this too; see here.) And if you want McKnight alone ("McKnight alone"--hopefully not a rallying cry for some neo-reformers!), Vanguard Church put his recent posts--sans comments--in a seven-page PDF here. (Though I'd recommend reading the interactions, at least some of 'em, when you get a chance. Many scholars and opinionated Calvinists weigh in.)

Another comment on McKnight's 'blog gets to the heart of this:

"This may be a bit weird, but I’ve also noticed that there’s a certain personality type that holds tenaciously to this Augustianian vision of humanity–the achievement-oriented first-born child who naturally has a strong sense of guilt, and is keenly aware of their own failures. To talk with such folks about corporate sin, cosmic sin, redemption as crossing over social and racial boundaries, etc., is to speak a different language. All they can think of is redemption as relief from the intense personal/psychological guilt arising from one’s own failures (which is not outside the scope of the gospel, I admit). This is quite a broad-brush, I know, but it’s been repeated enough times that I’ve seen something of a pattern."

Simply put, "liberation from the Christian life" might strike a psychologically-oriented, over-achieving person with an overactive conscience as "good news," but most people today are looking for a path to truly live by. The great thing is, Jesus is the Way, as the epitome of God and the embodiment of Torah--albeit the latter with a radical reimagining.

One thing I might differ with regarding both Reformation folks and NPP advocates (though with the latter I'm not sure if this oversight is the case) is the neglect of "in Christ" being Paul's central current. Of course, as Wright recently said, maybe finding Paul's (or Jesus', or God's) "central"or "ultimate" concern is a peculiarly contemporary concern, with the biblical authors invoking more a web of meaning than any one dominant metaphor...

12:39 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Falsey-dichotomous falsehood"...that's funny Mike. Kind of reminds me of "Lying liars who lie..." well anyhow...

From my perspective it is interesting that while we as Christians (and particularly Post-Luther) make our Christianity a faith based prospect, filled with conceptual attitudes and opinions--which we call "our faith", the ancient Jews and early Christians had no concept of such a notion.

Judaism referred to itself and its adherents as "halakah" or way. "A Life path, a way of being in the world from birth till death". This suggests a way of living where attitudes were inseperable from actions. Similarly in the original texts words such a believe or belief were interchangable with "obey". I have a friend who theorizes that every time in the New Testament we see the Spirit of God we also see action. In essence God's Spirit is activity. (As in, Genesis 1 "the spirit of God hovered/stirred...")
Yet we to often seperate "spiritual" from "actual"...if you get what I mean. It's what NT Wright called cosmological duality.

For me it's wrapped in Jeremiah's prophetic declaration on God's behalf: "For long ago I broke your yoke and burst your bonds but you said, 'I will not serve'...Why then do my people say, 'We are free?' Are they so free that they no longer press in hard after me?" Jeremiah 2:20, 31b.

Knowing Him is something our whole being is occupied with...attitudes and actions...seperating the two is ironically just seperating us all the more from Him and proving the effect of the Fall.

I do love the "translation" though--Thanks Kyle.



5:17 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

While I don't believe Judaism should be 'demonized', it should certainly be viewed for what it is...

It cannot make perfect.

Only Christ.

Scripture reveals that we grow in race...in the FAVOR of God, which comes about by the hearing of the gospel.

That being said, we are called not only to live in Spirit, but also to WALK in Spirit.

Walking is something altogether different from just 'living'.

There is true deliverance in the believing of the gospel.

Paul said, "...brethren, I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast that word which I preached to you--unless you believed in vain.
For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures.."

It's there.
Clear as the day.

5:27 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I know that I have the shaved head and all....
But, truly, I meant to say,

"...we grow in GRACE."

Not 'RACE'.


5:32 PM  
Blogger Mike Morrell said...

Ah, man. Here I was hoping we grew racially! : )

Great thoughts here all around. Well put, Brittian, about the seamless divide between belief and action. And I hear you, Johnny, about the insufficiency of our efforts. And yet I don't think God is inherently at war with our efforts; I think that by the Spirit-in-action he wants to come alongside our efforts, inspire them (literally, "breathe on") and bless them. And God wants us to bless his creative and redeeming actions in the world.

The problem with the first-century Pharisees isn't that they were trying to earn God's favor with their actions; this is simply untenable, as recent scholarship reveals. Instead, it was that they wanted to utilize the obedience outlined in Torah as a boundary-marker to separate them, the Jewish people, from everyone else on earth. The point of Galatians and Romans is "Who's in? Who's out?" Paul and the "old-school Jews" were in essential agreement as to the goodness of the law. It's just that the latter group saw it as static and barring people from God's new creation, and Paul saw it as transformed, simplified, and intensified as the Royal Law/Way of Love-Obedience, opening the gates of inclusion to absolutely everyone with the consummation of the covenant. (PLEASE check out those links if you haven't already--they do a much better job than I of summarizing all of this)

"Justification," I think, has been mis-applied to individual people as a personal event, whereas I think its occurrence was historical and covenantal, signifying the inclusion of people groups that were defined as "outsiders" and thus fulfilling the original intent of the Abrahamic covenant to be a blessing to all of the earth's people.

This, I believe is the unique contribution of Jesus in terms of his teaching...and of course I believe that it is his life, execution, and ascended life permeating all reality that animates this reality. And I think the NPP bridges what some see as the divide between Jesus' very "change your mind and actions" oriented message given to Israel, and Paul's "you are now included in the economy of God" message directed toward Gentiles.

Of course, we each encounter this in space/time, in our consciousness; I don't say any of the above to discount people's very real "I once was lost, but now I'm found" conversion experiences. I just think its helpful to see the covenantally, socially, publicly/politically and communally as well as individually--both in the "sin" and "redemption" aspects. Otherwise, we end up with an impoverished gospel that I can no longer "give" to someone with a straight face. It's just not sustainable.

6:05 PM  
Blogger Neil said...

Sheesh, guys.

I've got an issue with the polarization of faith and works as much as the next guy.

I just thought it was a clever paraphrase.

2:35 PM  
Blogger Neil said...

By the way...

I realize I'm not scholastically equal to the task of criticizing the New Perspective on Paul, but I HAVE given this a good bit of thought.

Charles Cosgrove wrote a great study in Galatians entitled The Cross and the Spirit. Incidentally, he wrote it after Sanders and Dunn began their work on Second Temple Judaism. The gist of his work argued that rhetorical criticism sheds some "new perspective" on Paul's purpose in writing that letter in the first place. Without going into great detail, his main point was to establish that Paul was not primarily pushing for racial inclusion in that letter, although that would be the most immediately relevant secondary outcome.

His primary argument in Galatians is that the indwelling Spirit is the only way to realize the character of God in the people of God. The Law as a means for inspiring that conduct will never do the trick.

There's more I could say about the current trends of Pauline studies, but who cares what I think, anyway? People who already think the same way as me?

2:44 PM  
Blogger Mike Morrell said...

Well actually Neil, I'd like to hear your thoughts/summary of this book. But let me go ahead and read your next post...

(My initial response is: Indwelling Spirit: Yes! Radical Inclusion: Yes! Maybe they both help inform the other; maybe you wouldn't know the presence of one fully and truly without the other.)

3:46 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Awww, Neil...
I don't know about everyone else here, but I don't want to fight about this stuff either.
Ain't got time.

Wouldn't mind getting together sometime soon though...for...like...REAL fellowship for a change.

4:28 PM  

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