It is interesting to note that the New Perspective on Paul has flourished in the wake of the Holocaust and the onset of the ecumenical movement, and the development of closer ties between Roman Catholics and Protestants.
The link here is that the ‘old’ (Protestant, and especially Lutheran) perspective on Paul taught that both Judaism and Roman Catholicism were (and are) beset by legalism, and that Paul’s doctrine of justification by faith alone was needed to counter-act this.
New Perspective proponents, however, mount challenges on both these fronts. They say that Second Temple Judaism was not a religion of works-righteousness, but rather one of ‘covenantal nomism’. And they also maintain that Protestant theologians have tended to view Paul through ‘Reformation spectacles’, reading back into his writings the disputes between the Reformers and their Roman Catholic opponents.
On this second point, the New Perspective finds more room for negotiation – agreement, even – between Protestants and Catholics. So much so, that some Catholic writer think that New Perspective Proponents such as N.T. Wright are are least half-way towards Catholicism in their theology.
Taylor Marshall, for instance, writes:-
Some earnest Protestants are now scratching their heads and saying to themselves: “You know, everything we’ve always assumed that Paul taught isn’t actually articulated by Paul. Maybe it’s time to rethink the entire systematic theology that we (Protestants) erected in the 16th-17th century.”
If you buy into Wright’s covenantal realism, then you’ve already taken three steps toward the Catholic Church. Keep following the trail an you’ll be Catholic. Salvation is sacramental, transformational, communal, and eschatological. Sound good? You’ve just assented to the Catholic Council of Trent.
It’s almost as if Wright dug deeply into Paul’s writings until finally he came to a door. When he opened the door, to everyone’s surprise, he found that he was on the other side of Wittenburg’s door.