New Perspective on Paul and Recent CanRC History

15 September 2010 by Wes Bredenhof

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.”