On the theological front, I have been reading (and listening to podcasts of) a relatively young but brilliant British scholar named Simon Gathercole, a fellow at Fitzwilliam College, University of Cambridge. Gathercole takes a modified traditional reformed position toward the “New Perspective on Paul,” the latter being an insight into the problem of justification in Paul’s writings, based on work in the ‘70s by E.P. Sanders and popularized of late by N.T. Wright. Broadly speaking, the New Perspective says that justification is about “getting in” and, more precisely, “staying in” the covenant people of God. “Boundary markers” like Sabbath observance, circumcision and kosher dining are, in the age of the indwelling Holy Spirit, no longer necessary to distinguish the family of God.
Gathercole agrees with that statement so far as it goes; but he criticizes the baggage that tends to accompany the New Perspective: a downplaying of the severity of personal sin, a muddying of the importance of the atonement, and a slide toward universalism, or what he more specifically designates as “non-conversionism,” i.e., the gospel being not so much about converting lost souls to the sin-bearing Redeemer as inclusion of people in God’s great big happy family.
To get a sense of the issues involved, one can listen to a slightly meandering but nonetheless fascinating discussion with Gathercole and his colleague, biblical textual scholar Peter J. Williams, here (at the time of the interview both men were teaching at the University of Aberdeen in Scotland; both are now at Cambridge).