Some Reflections on Hermeneutics and Method

Nicholas Perrin

I am grateful for the remarks made and questions posed in Guy Waters’s piece, “Rejoinder to Nicholas Perrin, ‘A Reformed Perspective on the New Perspective.’” The issues raised in Waters’s book and in the ensuing interchange engendered by my review are important ones. Some of these issues are, I think, especially important given certain shifts presently occurring within evangelical—and by extension conservative Reformed—theology. For better or worse, the past thirty or so years have witnessed a balkanization of theological method. This together with the postmodern turn has suddenly made the evangelical movement self-conscious in regards to issues of hermeneutics (how do we get at truth?) and method (how do we relate history to theology?). I suspect that the tension between Mr. Waters and N. T. Wright is in part related to a similar hermeneutical tension occurring in the evangelical academy and the church. With the advent of the New Perspective on Paul, it is almost as if we have had a new visitor to our bridge club, one who plays with slightly different but not entirely new conventions, and the club members are somewhat divided as to whether he should be invited for membership or sent away to the bridge club down the street and on the left. Sometimes bridge players develop new conventions because they want something new; sometimes they do so because they have taken a close look at the old way of doing things and found room for improvement. But quite apart from conventions, whether the new in this case is better, Waters and I also disagree as to how to play the hand properly Just as any bridge columnist will tell you, there is a right way and a wrong way to play the game, so too there are right methods and wrong methods when it comes to assessing the New Perspective on Paul. Despite the protests of my dialogue partner, I believe he has not got it right…

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