A New Perspective on St. Paul’s Use of “Law”

Centrists / General Convention / Religion

There’s a fascinating article posted on Jesus Creed about some new thinking into what St. Paul means when he speaks of the “works of the Law”. According to this article a new viewpoint is being espoused by many reformed theologians and some Anglican ones, including Bishop N.T. Wright.

Here’s a snippet:

“We can debate whether ‘works of the Law’ refers to non-biblical rulings (this Qumran text) or to biblical rulings and laws, but the point remains the same: it refers to rules and actions that maintain strict separation between Jews and Gentiles and form the spiritual identity of the one who observes them. Further, these actions enable the one so practicing them to ‘other’ those who don’t practice them. Now if you don’t see the potential value of this interpretation for modern church life, then let me make it plain as dirt: it would refer to any action that Christians do that intentionally separate them from others in order to foster their own identity and to deny that identity to others. I grew up with these ‘works of the Law’: movie going, drinking, smoking, and getting tattoos [thought I’d bring that one in today]. These acts enabled us to know we were in the right and all others were in the wrong. It is a safe world, after all, especially when you know you and your church mates are the only right ones in the whole dadgum world! The problem is that this is a form of self-righteousness (now I’m potentially slipping back into #1 but I’m keeping my head about me because it is not about anthropology but about social grouping).”

What I find so interesting about this is that this new thinking removes the logical paradox of modern Church life. We claim that we are saved by faith alone, but then say that unless you behave in a certain way, you can not be saved…

Jesus Creed » Works of the Law

(Via Jesus Creed.)

The Author

Episcopal bishop, dad, astronomer, erstwhile dancer...