New Perspective on Paul and Recent CanRC History

I’m currently reading a dissertation on baptism.  One of the chapters deals with Federal Vision and the New Perspective on Paul.  Reading that chapter brought me back to an old article by Dr. G. H. Visscher.  The article is entitled, “New Views Regarding Legalism and Exclusivism in Judaism: Is there a need to reinterpret Paul?”  It was published in the Fall 1999 issue of Koinonia.

In the introduction Visscher wrote, “The so-called New Perspective on Paul surfaces time and again.  The effects of these scholarly debates even seem to have surfaced in an ‘Open Letter’ published in the midst of our churches in southern BC last week.”  In a footnote, Visscher referred to the periodical where this letter was published and noted that it alleged “an attitude of exclusivism toward other Christians” in the Canadian Reformed Churches.  Dr. J. Visscher (the brother of G. H.) responded to these charges and noted their origin in the NPP writings of J. D. G. Dunn.  Later in the article, after analyzing and evaluating the NPP, G. H. Visscher asserted:  “Dunn’s conclusion that Christianity must similarly oppose all exclusivism (re Lord’s Supper practices, believer’s baptism, etc.) is unscriptural and dangerous for the life of the churches.”

A couple of further notes.  First, as far as I am aware, those who signed this “Open Letter” left the Canadian Reformed Churches.  They left because there was no room for their NPP-influenced views.  Second, the same article also insists that “the implication that Paul is opposing exclusivism in every instance rather than legalism must necessarily involve a further reinterpretation of Paul which jeopardizes the principles of justification by faith through grace alone.”

About Wes Bredenhof

Pastor of the Free Reformed Church, Launceston, Tasmania. View all posts by Wes Bredenhof

2 responses to “New Perspective on Paul and Recent CanRC History

  • Bill DeJong

    Dear Wes,

    It seems a little simplistic to talk about Npp and the Can Ref. Npp consists of multiple, independent theses, including, for eg, an assessment of Second Temple Judaism and an interpretation of “works of the law” in Pauline theology. Among the Can Ref you will find individuals who are sympathetic to some, if not many ideas promoted under the rubric of npp. One significant influence for understanding the NT among can ref ministers is Dr. Jakob van Bruggen who holds to a modified Npp position.

  • Shawn VanDyken

    Dr. Bredenhof:

    Thank you for bringing this essay (back) to light. The question raised by Dr. Visscher remains timely: “Is there a need to reinterpret Paul?” It seems there are always some who are on an endless quest for what is new, provocative, and trendy. Or, as they might prefer, “cutting-edge”.

    Our forefathers adequately addressed those who would proclaim a new and strange justification of man before God. When standing at the crossroads, far better to choose the old (i.e., tried and true) paths. Walking in these we find rest for our souls.

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