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Great write-up Dave, thanks.

great review -- thank you. I want to read this one.

Great writeup. I'm curious as to how you take Wright's take on Paul's theology of justification relative to the common LDS views. In some ways (at least from your summary) Wright sounds like he's propounding something much more in line with LDS thought.

Clark, I'm not really sure what the LDS view of justification is -- we use different terminology. But Sanders really stressed that Paul's central question was "Who is included with the people of God?" not "Who is saved?" That is similar in some ways to Wright's discussion of who falls under the extended covenant that qualifies them for access to God's vindication or justification. I guess in a general sense that corresponds with the LDS concern with membership in the Church rather than personal salvation as pursued by conservative Protestants.

Wright stressed the extent of the revolution in Pauline studies in the late 70s and 80s, which resituated Paul squarely in the context of our expanded understanding of first-century Judaism. This revolution basically made any earlier studies of Paul largely outdated. And several good LDS books on Paul (Sperry, Richard Lloyd Anderson) predate that revolution. So I'm not sure the LDS view of Paul has really caught up with the scholarship.

Well, I guess my view is that is more akin to the LDS view. The idea of an entrance into a community. My sense is that whatever you may think of him, McConkie's views on justification are the main LDS one. At a certain stage you enter into a community sealed by the Holy Spirit of Promise. You aren't perfect yet (i.e. without sin) but you're pretty well part of the same community of heaven. Salvation is largely an issue of a resurrected celestial body but justification is the assurance you'll have such.

The big question (and a big question we have with Evangelicals) is when this assurance takes place. You have a sizable group of people who think that so long as you trust Jesus and accept him as your savior that's all there is. I think Mormons are actually somewhat sympathetic to that view that God will make up the difference but tend to think the commitment is a little stronger. I think the Hel 10 view of justification for Nephi is the standard LDS one.

Dave: I am generally interested in N. T. Wright's take on things because he is knowledgeable and generally adopts the NPP. However, he follows Richard Bauckham when it comes to defining monotheistic christology: Jesus as Christ is included in the "unique identity of God." What that means is that God is the sole and unique one of its kind and thus has no kind or species identity and Christ is identical to this one and only unique whatever it is. It is a total logical mess without much meaning and hides bad exegesis behind vague nonsense that is just good old fashioned modalism when it comes down to it. (BTW I discuss these issues at lenght in my 3rd vol. of Exploring Mormon Thought).

The NPP notion of justification as being accepted into a covenant relationship as a matter of grace but maintaining the relationship by keeping the terms of the covenant seems quite consonant with LDS commitments in my view. It is an outright rejection of Calvinist view of eternal security. That seems to me to be the view taken in D&C 20's discussion of justification and sanctification. (I discuss these issues at length in my 2nd vol. of Exploring Mormon Thought).

I like to translate talk of grace into talk of unconditional acceptance into committed relationship -- where one is accepted as a matter of unconditional love based on a covenant commitment to keep the law of love taught by Jesus as the terms of the covenant. It is the same view taught by Alma as the condition to enter into Christ through baptism by comforting those in need of comfort etc. At least, that is how I parse it.

Thanks for the review and discussion. I have just started Wright's book Justification hoping that it will help me make some sense out of the Book of Mormon's doctrine of salvation/justification. The Book of Mormon seems rather Pauline, so by coming to understand Paul, I may be able to understand the Book of Mormon better. I do note however that there seems to be a significant shift in Book of Mormon soteriology from Nephi to King Benjamin. I'm hoping Wright may be an unwitting guide through the morass.

The problem with interpreting Paul, is that first you have to decide whether you are a determinist, and whether you believe in creatio ex nihilo. Then you can come up with reasonable interpretations that fit your metaphysical framework.

The sad thing about most interpreters of Paul from Augustine on is that they are reading him through the lens of theological determinism, and then conducting silly disputes not over the core of Paul's message at all, but rather artifacts of metaphysics.

For example: "They try to save themselves by their own efforts...This doesn't work; one can only be saved by the sheer unmerited grace of God, appropriated not by good works but by faith."

If you are a true Calvinist this is a pointless distinction. There is no "try", no "personal" efforts, no individual "works", no "merit". In fact there really isn't anything that can be distinguished from divine grace. It is axiomatic.

In other words, good works are divine grace. So are bad works. There is nothing that people do to qualify for salvation, because people don't qualify.

So people say good works aren't necessary for salvation. But how can they tell that it isn't according to God's eternal decree to save only those whom he has foreordained to a lifetime of good works? Either way, only those who are anxiously engaged in good works are among the saved.

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