“When Paul inveighed against justification by works of the law, the law he had in mind was Torah, God's revealed positive law that specifies what God wills that human creatures ought to do. It might well be interpreted as including a positive duty to forgive others. In seventeenth-century Protestant-Roman Catholic theological polemics, Protestant theologians held that Paul’s critique of the project of ‘justification by works of the law’ included works evaluated by ‘law’ more broadly understood as moral law, whether revealed in Scripture or rationally discerned in the structure of created reality as natural law. Such law might well include a duty to forgive others. It has not been uncommon in modern Protestant theology for Paul’s critique to be broadened to cover the project of justifying one’s life by ‘works of the law’ where ‘law’ is understood to cover any social convention that serves as a criterion for excellence in behavior…
These successive broadenings of what Paul meant by ‘law’ move entirely outside the theological context in which he framed his critiques Paul’s concern was highly particularist and Christocentric. He was concerned to reconcile the unbrokenness of God’s covenant with Israel, and the continued validity of Torah as the expression of God’s will regarding life in the covenant, with the Gospel claim that in Jesus Christ God enacted reconciliation with estranged human creatures, including Gentiles outside the covenant and not subject to all the demands of Torah. Successive broadenings of understanding of ‘law’ in ‘justification by works of the law’ do not develop Paul’s theological point. They simply change the subject.”
(I'm sorry I don't have the page number. I asked my friend for the full reference, but he said he was busy updating his Facebook profile or something. Ah, the life of a PhD student in theology...)
I do have one question (similar to something pondered here): what's the difference between developing Paul's point and simply changing the subject? I don't dispute that there is a difference, but I'd be interested to hear how new perspective folks answer this.