Thursday, June 20, 2013

D. A. Carson and "Variegated Nomism"

Working on a book I'm writing for Fortress called, A New Perspective on Hebrews.  This morning I wrote the following in relation to D. A. Carson's two volume project, Justification and Variegated Nomism:
No doubt there is some validity to this element of Carson’s critique. We cannot assume that the attitude of each Jewish individual and group toward the Law was uniform or consistent.  Indeed, we cannot assume that Paul’s own rhetoric toward the Jewish Law can be easily systematized into a neat theology. [1] At the same time, Carson and those like him clearly have their own theological axes to grind. His base camp is set in a particular Christian theology whose evaluative lens may or may not be appropriate for Paul, let alone for Jewish literature. For example, his understanding of what constitutes “merit theology” is arguably more a matter of the Protestant Reformer John Calvin than Paul himself. [2]

[1] The plethora of books and positions on Paul and the Law argues quite strongly to the contrary. For one failed attempt of a diverse group of scholars to come to such a consensus, see Paul and the Mosaic Law.

[2] In particular, Carson’s theology leads him to consider anything but “monergism” as a theology of “works righteousness” and “merit theology.” Monergism is the idea that human will plays no part in an individual’s righteousness before God. What if, however, Paul’s own theology proves to be “synergistic” in Carson's terms, involving a necessity of works to be finally justified (e.g., 2 Cor. 5:10) and a cooperation of human will with divine will? In that case, not only Second Temple Jewish literature proves to espouse a merit theology, but the New Testament itself. In that case, Carson’s bold project not only proves to have a lackluster result—the essays constitute only minor rather than major critiques of Sanders’ work. In that case, the project itself proves to be fundamentally unsuccessful.


David L Rattigan said...

I could never be a variegated nomist. I love dairy products too much.

David Drury said...

Footnote smack-down accomplished!

Ken Schenck said...


Tony said...

This is cool!