Was Paul Wrong?

Under Original Sin: Paul, Romans 5, and the Heart of the Issue, Emergent Pillage brings up a point that has vexed me for some time.  He (I assume EP is a “he”) baldly asserts that if you think that Paul was wrong about something, “then at least have the integrity to not call yourself a Christian.”

It’ll come as no surprise, but I wouldn’t phrase it quite like that.

First off, let me say, as I think the post in question makes clear, I have no desire to avoid the hard saying of the the Bible, particularly those of Paul.  I believe that Paul’s writings are inspired and authoritative.  (Why?  Because they have been attested so by the church for 1,500+ years.)  I am not advocating that we throw out willy-nilly the difficult parts of the Bible, nor that we ignore the parts we don’t line, and not even the Jesus Seminar approach that we gather scholars and vote on what passages of Scripture are authoritative and which are not.

So, with those caveats, let me ask: If you, through and honest and thoroughgoing process of study and discernment, come to decide that the Apostle Paul was wrong about something in his writings, have you forsaken your claim to be an orthodox Christian?

  • EricW

    have you forsaken your claim to be an orthodox Christian?
    Why do you say “orthodox Christian” and not simply “Christian”? What do you mean by “orthodox Christian”? Do you mean adherence to the Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed affirmations about Christ and the Godhead? Do you also mean adherence to the Chalcedonian Statement affirmations about Christ and the Godhead (which would mean excluding the so-called “Oriental” Orthodox Churches, who are likely more “orthodox” than many Evangelical Protestants today)? Do you mean acceptance of the Protestant/Roman Catholic canon of the New Testament? (Some Orthodox Christians include 1 Enoch in their canon.) Do you mean accepting Anselm’s doctrine of the atonement? Do you mean accepting Luther’s “salvation by faith alone“? I’m not being nit-picky, but wanting to know what you mean by “orthodox Christian,” since the several posts on this or related subjects still don’t seem to make clear what you mean by “orthodox” Christianity – i.e., what is the sine qua non, if there is one, that you believe determines if a person is or is not a Christian, let alone an “orthodox” Christian? And until you answer that, how can you pose your question?

  • http://jhimm.net/wabi_sabi jhimm

    Before I learned that it was possible to separate factual from truthful, before I learned that it was possible to separate true from literal, I believed Paul was wrong about a great many things. If you read the gospels literally as fact, and you read Paul literally as fact, it simply is not possible to form a cohesive doctrine which allow the two to agree. Since Jesus is divine, I concluded Paul must have been the one to get it wrong.
    But guess what? I was still saved under grace. And this is why I believe the quest for orthodoxy (small ‘o’EricW, not big ‘O’) is by and large a waste of time. EricW’s point is well taken. Mainline Protestants have a sense of what a ‘mainstream’, center of the bell curve (which is what I assume you mean by ‘orthodox’ in this context) Christian doctrine looks like. Evangelical Protestants have a different sense of that ‘orthodox’ doctrine. Obviously those outside the Protestant tradition (Catholics, Eastern churches, Quakers &c.) would take a very dim view, I suspect, of both versions of Protestantism’s take on ‘orthodox’ Christian doctrine.
    Is the question “are you still a Christian if you reject Paul” or is the question “are you risking heresy if you reject Paul”? I think the answer to the former is a resounding “YES”, especially for Protestants who insist on embracing sola fide, which has nothing to do with accepting Paul’s doctrines. I think the answer to the latter question is a simple “who cares”? No ordinary human being, ever, has had perfect doctrine. Not even Paul. While there is certainly value in trying to have the most correct doctrine one can have, it is neither a contest, nor a required attribute of one’s faith. The quality of our faith is evidenced in the fruit it bears, not in the doctrine out of which it flows.
    Why limit this to just Paul? The Bible is full of small discrepancies (even some big ones) and we have ample evidence that many manuscripts were inaccurately copied over time (either inadvertently or deliberately). If we admit the Bible has flaws, and yet still assert and insist that it is inspired and fully truthful, does that put our ‘orthodoxy’ at risk? And if so, do we care? Is it worth being ‘orthodox’ to turn off our brains and to stop thinking critically just so that we can pretend that the Bible is perfect?

  • panthera

    A valid question.
    Yes, I am a Christian and no, I do not think Paul is right in all of his writings (considering the conflicting statements across the letters, that should not surprise you).
    Paul has been granted a higher place in the christianists pantheon than any other for the simple reason that his writings can best be perverted to oppress gays, women, Negros and transgendered.

  • EricW

    Paul has been granted a higher place in the christianists pantheon than any other for the simple reason that his writings can best be perverted to oppress gays, women, Negros and transgendered.
    Yeah, right. That’s really the real reason Paul’s writings have been granted their exalted and prominent position. When the bishops gathered to determine which writings would be considered canonical and worthy of being read during the Liturgy and used for instructing catechumens, they said: “We must be sure to give St. Paul’s letters a prominent place, because we can use them to oppress gays, women, Negroes and transgendered persons.” When Martin Luther placed Romans in the place of prominence at the front of his collection of Paul’s Epistles, he did so not because it was the longest Epistle in the New Testament, nor because it enshrined and proclaimed Luther’s Gospel of salvation by faith alone, but because he knew he could use it to oppress gays, women, Negros and transgendered persons.
    I assume Tony allows some persons’ posts here because he knows he can use them to oppress rational thought.

  • panthera

    EricW,
    I wish you would read first, attack last. I specifically referred to ‘christianists’ not Christians, did I not?
    Why yes, I did.
    If you are unfamiliar with the term – it is hardly new around here – I’d be happy to provide a definition.
    There is much wisdom in many of Paul’s writings. Sometimes, I can really feel his frustration and understand a context in which he would send off a strongly worded letter to a group of nasty women telling them to sit down and shut up. Telling one nasty, er, um, lady to stop being nasty is not, however, license to tell all women to sit down and shut up, us men are speaking now.
    But that is how his texts are perverted by the christianists. Making him so beloved of them, far more so than that long-haired Jewish Rabi, good old what’s his name, you know…ran around preaching forgiveness and pointing out that everybody, not just gays were sinners…drat, who was he again? One of those weird Semite names, nothing solidly Southern Baptist like Paul…will come to me in a moment, no doubt…hmm, Son of God, maybe? Nah, can’t be.

  • Tony

    You people are hillarious! panthera – you felt attacked? You’re joking right? Interesting question Tony – thanks! I’m studying Paul right now, so this question is particularly interesting to me…
    Interesting that you can ask a controversial question to a bunch of christians and they’ll either get defensive or play the “victim” card. Satan tunes into this show more often than American Idol!

  • EricW

    panthera:
    OK, point taken.
    “Christianist” is an ambiguous term:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christianism
    Christianism refers to fundamentalist Christianity and/or Christendom.
    It may also refer to:
    * the belief that Christianity is superior to all other religions
    * prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism against a religion or person practicing a religion, other than Christianity, based on the belief that Christianity is superior to all other religions. See Islamism
    * the quest to establish global Christian domination in all areas of world religious and secular society
    * Dominionism, political activism based on conservative Christian principles
    - – -
    But I think your statement/argument is flawed. You write:

    Paul has been granted a higher place in the christianists pantheon than any other for the simple reason that his writings can best be perverted to oppress gays, women, Negros and transgendered.
    I would argue that Paul’s writings have been given the high place they have “in the Christianists’ pantheon” – or, more correctly, in the Protestants’ pantheon, whether of the “Christianist” variety or of the Calvinist, Arminian, Pentecostal, etc., variety, because they most clearly proclaim the Protestant Reformation doctrine of salvation by grace through faith. And for that reason, they are the Scriptures that “Christianists,” as children (legitimate or bastard or otherwise) of the Protestant Reformation best know and have most often heard and used when proclaiming the Gospel (e.g., The Four Spiritual Laws or The Romans Road). I.e., their entire theological tradition, is Prima Paulina.

  • EricW

    FWIW:
    A friend has written a lengthy paper on the early centuries of the Church, and he has found a near total absence of references to Paul’s Gospel of salvation by grace through faith in the writings of the Early Church Fathers. Does the diminishing and cessation of the charismata relate to the neglect of the doctrine of charis?
    And since I’m posting:
    Thanks, panthera, for alerting me to the difference between “Christian” and “Christianist.” I had not heard/used the term before. And while I’m at it, this corrects the punctuation/formatting of my last post:
    But I think your statement/argument is flawed. You write:

    Paul has been granted a higher place in the christianists pantheon than any other for the simple reason that his writings can best be perverted to oppress gays, women, Negros and transgendered.

    I would argue that Paul’s writings have been given the high place they have “in the Christianists’ pantheon” – or, more correctly, in the Protestants’ pantheon, whether of the “Christianist” variety or of the Calvinist, Arminian, Pentecostal, etc., variety – because they most clearly proclaim the Protestant Reformation doctrine of salvation by grace through faith. And for that reason, they are the Scriptures that “Christianists,” as children (legitimate or bastard or otherwise) of the Protestant Reformation best know and have most often heard and used when proclaiming the Gospel (e.g., The Four Spiritual Laws or The Romans Road). I.e., their entire theological tradition, is Prima Paulina.

  • http://exploringourmatrix.blogspot.com James McGrath

    The fundamentalists who claim that you must believe everything Paul wrote to be a Christian do not believe everything Paul wrote. They clearly have serious trouble accepting Paul’s statement in 1 Corinthians 11:17, that he is “not speaking according to the Lord, but as a fool”.
    Here’s a link to a blog post of mine with reflections on “When Paul gets it wrong”:
    http://exploringourmatrix.blogspot.com/2007/08/when-paul-gets-it-wrong.html

  • panthera

    Tony (the OTHER Tony), I do not feel personally attacked…these are a bunch of photons emitted from a screen, no?
    I do, confess, however, that my patience on the subject of ‘christianist’ versus ‘Christian’ has worn thin.
    Too, thin at times.
    You see, this once neo-logism was invented precisely to circumvent the problem we have in dealing with that rigid mindset which leads to a First Baptist Church, a Second Batist Church…n Baptist Churches in short order. You see it here all the time – someone calls someone else a far-right conservative and they immediately snap back that they are not, they are a Liberal in the Hamiltonian tradition, but not fans of Atlas Shrugged.
    But, hey – the point here is whether there is value to be found in Paul’s writings for those of us who do not make the mistake (heresy?) of according him a higher place than Jesus. Jesus is not as easy to deify (yes I know the meaning of the word) as is Paul. The Catholics face a similar problem with Mary versus Jesus among many of the less, hmm, shall we say, demanding faithful.
    Personally, I find much of what Paul wrote a very useful guide to distinguishing between my good works (we have found over time here that the further to the left the Christian, the more they tend to find it important to actually help people directly) and my ego which insists that I am worth because of my good works. Nope, I am worthy because Jesus died for my sins.
    Now, I do have a dog in this fight because, having lost on the issues of a flat earth, geo-centric solar system, women being not-quite-fully-human, Negros being only 3/5 human (at best), the christianists have now decided to attack gays and transgendered. Paul’s writings are easily perverted to that task. Here, yes, you may genuinely feel I consider myself to be under attack. In my home country, I am married to the man whom I love. In the US, it has cost us several tens of thousands of dollars to achieve minimal protection of our relationship against my fundamentalist Christian relations…and even then, courts have had to intervene twice for us to be treated with justice.
    So, Tony (not the Blog host Tony), how, do you deal with the conflicts in Paul’s writings? Pretend they don’t exist? Follow his every word (that will make for some fun, I happen to have actually read the Bible cover to cover and take delight in such discussions) or try to see what is meant by his teachings?

  • EricW

    panthera:
    I agree with you.
    Paul is easier to live with than Jesus. Paul’s writings are more subject to being able to ask and debate re: them: “What does he mean by that? What is his argument here?” than Jesus’s statements.
    Paul is easier to conform to one’s theology, or vice-versa (and often selectively at that), than Jesus.

  • Thom

    I would say it’s theoretically possible – “repent and believe, for the Kingdom is at hand” means believe in the Christ, not necessarily in Paul.
    However, placing yourself in authority over the Bible really does change the game quite a bit – you can’t call out the Jesus Seminar folks as being too loose with the text if you’re going to do the same thing, only qualifying it with “an honest and thoroughgoing process of study and discernment” – how much study, exactly?
    For what it’s worth, my understanding of Paul and original sin:
    Paul’s picture of imputed sin in Adam is (I think) primarily there to give us a greater sense of how Christ’s imputed righteousness works. However jilted you feel because you’re damned for Adam’s sin, you are just as un-implicated in your righteousness. I don’t know that it matters whether Adam and Eve were real living creatures or pictures of the human condition for Paul’s point to hold up.

  • Jeff

    Tony,
    Help me understand your thinking here. You agree with the historic church on the nature of Paul’s writings (that they are “inspired” and “authoritative”), but you disagree with the church on the content of Paul’s writings. Historically, the church, given that it has seen Paul’s writings as inspired and authoritative, wouldn’t disagree with what they say because they are inspired and authoritative. Of course, that has changed a lot in the past couple centuries (thanks modernity), but this is the case in the broad sweep of history.
    It seems to me that either you mean something different by the words “inspired” and “authoritative” than Christians have historically understood them, or you don’t actually hold them to be inspired and authoritative. Would you clarify?
    As far as your question goes, it depends on what you mean by “orthodox,” doesn’t it? Again, if you think of it as historically understood, no you couldn’t openly oppose the Apostle Paul in any of his canonical writings and still be considered orthodox. But if orthodox means something else, then a person could disagree and still be orthodox.
    But then if we decide to change what it has historically meant, what is orthodoxy?

  • Joey

    Besides being utterly confused at the reasoning here partly because I don’t have this or that training/education my question is do you guys that hold to this Emergent Movement really believe that what you believe is really real? Is this Emergent Movement really delivering the Real Truth more so than the “Tradionalist/Fundamentalist” way?
    My concern is that in the posts that I’ve read by some of you in various blogs that are die hard Emergent followers…I haven’t seen any pointing back to the Cross or back to the Father. Where does that truth fall? If the Bible isn’t solely authoritative because of the proposed inconsistencies, how does one derive to Truth? Is it through self-actualization?

  • Tim

    Canonical Bible… the inspired, authoritative witness to God (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit)
    Canonical Bible… treasured because it points to God and the work of salvation
    Canonical Bible… not God, not God, not God
    You might have noticed. I don’t think the Bible is not God.
    Inspired, authoritative witness? Yes. God? No.
    Therefore… the value of Paul in the scriptures is that he points us to Christ.
    Therefore… we read Paul because he preaches the Gospel.
    So… Paul got some things wrong. Big deal! He points us to Christ.
    The church continually screws up, and we can’t even agree on how we are screwing up. Big deal! What matters is that we pointed to and encounter the Triune God.
    Tim

  • Larry

    If Luther could so cavalierly dismiss a whole book of the New Testament as an “epistle of straw”, why is not possible for perfectly orthodox Christians to disagree with some of what Paul wrote? Or to disagree with the dominant interpretations of Paul?

  • Rick

    Why would anyone want to be an orthodox Christian?

  • EricW

    Why would anyone want to be an orthodox Christian?
    Perhaps because the alternative is to be a heretic (though some may wear that moniker as a badge of honor). :D

  • Rick

    Truth is always SOMEONES version of the truth. To equate the Bible with God’s truth is ridiculous, since it’s an equivocal unsystematic mess that in many places doesn’t even correspond to historical and scientific reality as we understand it today. If the Bible is God’s truth, God is a moron. As a product of men, it’s the greatest collection of writings ever written and assembled.

  • http://brucedroppings.com Bruce

    Paul wrote some things that were his own opinion. Paul wrote some things that only make sense in the context of the culture and point in history where/when Paul lived.
    Tim in comment 1 pretty well sums it up for me.
    One could be a Christian and accept NONE of Paul’s words. Salvation is not conditioned on fidelity to a text. Salvation is in Jesus. It starts and ends with him.
    Bruce

  • panthera

    I often think the difference between Paul and that long-haired Jewish Rabi, whats-his-name, lies in the difference between a Jew who was sent to bring us back to God’s love and a Christian convert, Paul, who was confronted with making a new religion work.
    Today, as far too often in the past, Paul’s writings are used as a basis to prove one’s perspectives on how a Christian is to live.
    Jesus focused on our Father’s forgiveness. He never said word one about homosexuality, his treatment of women was nowhere at all as Paul’s. Of course, Jesus was the Son of God and Paul was a cranky, ill man trying to do too much with too little.
    Of course, ultimately, the question is not about Paul. It is about whether one is able to accept that God has not given us license to force our interpretation of the Bible on others or whether He has.
    In theology, as in so much else in life, there are two personality types. Those who can only feel secure when they have forced others to bend their will to that which they desire – inquisition, christianists, Bush republicans, etc. Then, there are those who are too busy trying to remove the logs from their own eyes to be much bothered with that microscopic mote in their brother’s eye. I suspect Paul would be extremely annoyed at discovering how his words are perverted to oppress women, gays and the transgendered. He’d probably sit write down and write something like this:
    Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.
    2 And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing.
    3 And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.
    4 Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up,
    5 Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil;
    6 Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth;
    7 Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.
    8 Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away.
    9 For we know in part, and we prophesy in part.
    (I reject utterly the fundamentalist Christian Bibles which American christianists use. Live with the King James, Vulgate, Luther’s German or the Greek. Anything else is twisted lies.)

  • Joey

    Clearly, we are not all in agreement with what Truth is. I’m still waiting for someone to tell me how they derive to Truth from this Emergent Group as well as the answers to my other questions. Maybe TJ can blog about that to give me some enlightenment.

  • just passing through

    Wow. Only two passages of scripture come to my mind about this whole Emergent Church, “New Christian” movement:
    Matthew 13:24-30 and Matthew 7:22-23
    Ch.13:
    24) Another parable put he forth unto them, saying, The kingdom of heaven is likened unto a man which sowed good seed in his field:
    25) But while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat, and went his way.
    26) But when the blade was sprung up, and brought forth fruit, then appeared the tares also.
    27) So the servants of the householder came and said unto him, Sir, didst not thou sow good seed in thy field? from whence then hath it tares?
    28) He said unto them, An enemy hath done this. The servants said unto him, Wilt thou then that we go and gather them up?
    29) But he said, Nay; lest while ye gather up the tares, ye root up also the wheat with them.
    30) Let both grow together until the harvest: and in the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, Gather ye together first the tares, and bind them in bundles to burn them: but gather the wheat into my barn.
    Ch7:
    22) Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works?
    23) And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.

  • just passing through

    Who would have thought that quoting scripture on a christian site would invoke such anger? I guess my point has been proven for me.

  • Tony Arens

    panthera – can you site a particular conflict that you personally find difficult to deal with? It would be interesting to contrast your thoughts with my own.
    Peace,
    TA

  • http://brucedroppings.com Bruce

    Just passing through,
    Cut and paste scripture quoting lends nothing to an argument. You assume everyone views the Scriptures as you do (a very unwise assumption)
    Now i suspect everyone KNOWS what you are trying to say with your cut and paste…….but why not put into your own words.
    Are we safe to presume you are saying the Emergent Church is of “Satan” ? If so why are you hanging out here? Should you not be “fleeing all unrighteousness” or “abstaining from the very appearance of evil” Should you not “come out from among them”?
    Bruce

  • panthera

    Tony,
    Are you referring to ‘justpassingthrough’? Or do you mean Paul’s writings?
    If the latter (I think Bruce more than adequately voiced my own objections to ‘justpassingthrough’) then, what conflict do you desire? Ones which result from translations? I gave you one above: Charity versus Love.
    Or Paul’s telling a group of obnoxious women in one special instance to be quite versus all women at all times?
    Or his admonitions to heterosexual men not to engage in sexual acts which are part of pagan ceremonies…versus the christianist position that God, speaking through Paul, condemns gays to hell?
    Be specific, I’ll be happy to engage you in dialog.

  • Tim

    Dear “Just Passing Through”,
    I read your post as suggesting that those of us who are part of the Emergent conversation are equivalent to weeds who will need to be burnt to a crisp.
    And we are also frauds/devils who use the name of Jesus without belonging to him. So that might explain the anger that you sense from comments on your comment.
    Of course, maybe “we Emergers” are destined for the crisper, as you say. And, being told you’re headed to the “smoking section” of the afterlife is not what anyone likes to hear.
    Tim

  • Jeebus Freak

    I think we can safely say that Paul wouldn’t have thought that a agreeing with him was a prerequisite for being a Christian. He woudl argue with you quite vehemently if you did. And he would try to oust you from the church if you denied Christ, or some other obvious and fundamental doctrinal issue. But he was having arguments with other Christian leaders all the time- and about some pretty heavy issues. Many of his letters WERE those arguments. But he doesn’t say that those he disagrees with aren’t Christians. James wanted people to keep kosher and for only jews to be converted. Paul disagreed with him and argued about it, but he didn’t accuse James of heresy. James was the real leader of the church. But Paul did not offically schism from him when they disagreed. Cannonizing his writings was not his idea, and I somehow doubt he’d have been terribly comfortable with that notion.

  • Jeebus Freak

    passing thru:
    Acknowledging that the truth is complex and that I individually (and by extention you) do not a have a full grasp on what exactly that truth is, and cannot since we are not God IS NOT the same thing as attesting that there is NO TRUTH.
    I can’t imagine why someone would engage in all these discussions and arguments and study if they didn’t think that there was some definite truth underlying… um… everything. It wouldn’t matter. Then we’d be like Pontius Pilot, or Rick up there. He could put his statements about “Who’s truth?” up in any topic of any discussion of anything ever. Why bother saying anything if there is no truth.
    Emergent Christians believe that there is a truth and there is a God and there is a Christ that saved us and that the church and the Bible are here to get us closer to God, Christ & Salvation.
    We’re just not pompous enough to think that we have all the answers or sheepish enough to buy it when somebody else says they do.

  • panthera

    Well said, Jeebus Freek.
    Not that it will avail anything, folks like that need the security of knowing they are ‘right’ and the pleasure they derive in thinking the rest of us are going to hell.
    “Oh!” The exclaim to themselves, “But I did try to show them they were wrong, I did! But they were to caught up in themselves to listen! And now (rubbing hands in glee) they are going to burn! Forever!”
    Southern or red-nex accent optional, but suggested.
    The irony of it all is that this is precisely the problem Paul was confronting – both in the communities being built and in his own severe nature. It is not for nothing that the christianists adore Paul and set him above Jesus…

  • Ethan

    I don’t think it necessarily means someone is not a Christian, since salvation is by grace through faith.
    However, one would have to question a critic of Paul’s writings, given that they are God-breathed. I think there’s a difference between truly wrestling with Scripture (as we saw Luther do with the book of James) and merely dismissing certain texts that are “problem texts”, e.g. on women in the church, homosexuality, etc.
    I also think there are many essentials in the Christian faith and many non-essentials. And believing the Word of God to be inerrant in its original form is an essential. Arguing manuscripts, etc. is not the same as totally dismissing Paul’s writings that you don’t agree with.
    Side Note: There are many of you who have a very warped understanding of complementarian views re: women in the church. You should probably read up on it before attacking a straw man.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Complementarianism

  • http://kylejoshua85.wordpress.com Kyle Nolan

    Panthera,
    I don’t feel much like getting involved in this conversation, but I just want to mention that often, if I try to read your writing aloud, all I hear is “sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.” In short, your being an oppressed person (whom I do genuinely have sympathy for) doesn’t excuse you from charity.
    And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise.
    (Luke 6:31)(KJV, per your request)
    I hope you don’t take this as an attack, but rather as the gentle correction it is intended to be.

  • Ethan

    Jeebus,
    Do you disagree with any of King David’s writings? How about Moses? Peter?
    There is a fine line between disagreeing with a person and disagreeing with Scripture. Obviously Paul was a sinner (the chief of them!), but it is very dangerous to tamper with inspired Scripture.

  • Jeebus Freak

    “And believing the Word of God to be inerrant in its original form is an essential.”
    That’s just the thing. I believe that the Bible is God breathed. That’s what the Bible says about itself. When I hear “God-breathed” I don’t hear “God dictated.” Where does this essential come from? Is it in the bible itself- no. The passage in question is the closest there is, and I don’t interpret it the way many do. Is it in the creeds? No. The Creed says that the Holy Spirit has spoken through the prophets. That’s where scripture derives it’s authority: The Holy Spirit. Right?
    Well, I’m a baptized Christian. The Holy Spirit lives in me. Just like it did in Paul.
    This is dangerous you say, The Holy Spirit is infallible, but humans are not. You may think that the Holy Spirit is guiding your interpretation and be mistaken.
    Ah, but would the same not be true of Paul? Couldn’t he, like every other Christian in the world, think that the Holy Spirit wanted him to write this or that and been mistaken a few times? Blinded by his ego, or the confines of the culture he found himself in. If I can, he can and vice versa.
    Very dangerous. I’ve just put myself on par with Paul for interpreting the Holy Spirit. If I’m going to that then I can just decide the Bible means anything I want it to. That won’t lead me to God. I’ll just interpret it the way that’s easiest for me, and meanest to my perceived enemies.
    There has to be a standard then. An overarching principle that should guide all interpretation. What should that litmus test be. What is the.. well, what is the greatest commandment? Jesus? I think you said something about that…
    Love. Love God. Love your neighbor. One is like the other. One is the other. If you are thinking, feeling, living in love then the Holy Spirit is always with you. It will never steer you wrong. Love cannot be mistaken for your own ego because it is selfless by nature. Love challenges yourself and forgives all others. Interpret the scriptures with love as your slide rule and you won’t be far off. Even though you still won’t be able to know all the answers, you won’t arrive at interpretations that are damaging to you, or hateful to the rest of the world.
    Least ways that’s what the Holy Spirit seems to be saying to me…

  • Jeebus Freak

    That said- I agree that it is dangerous to dismiss any scripture out of hand. There are many examples of scriptures that have really bothered me in the past making more sense as time went on for me. Or that I learned something about history or the context in some other way that made it make “jive” for me. When I encounter something that really rubs me the wrong way, my strategy is to file it away with the others and remember to seek further knowledge about it, or delve into my own self-conscious (sp?) to see if there’s a selfish reason that this scripture bothers me. In which case it is challenging me. If I just can’t make a scripture gel with the overarching love principle, I just have to think- The Holy Spirit isn’t communicating with me thru this particular passage at this particular time, and this is as likely my fault as it is the translation or the human flaws of the writer. I don’t think I’m deluding myself by going back to the scriptures that do speak to me and challenge me right now. It’s a big book and I’ve got my whole life to deal with all it’s many facets.
    P.S. I haven’t read all of David, so I don’t know. Generally I like the Psalms. Who doesn’t? I’ve got some major issues with Moses, though. Can’t seem to reconcile his repeated exhortations to kill all the women and children of any tribe with whom the Hebrews were at war with the love principle yet. I’m working on it though. I’ve heard of tough love, but…

  • Jason

    Tony,
    I think you forsook your claim to be an orthodox Christian a long time ago, but, in answer to your question, yes, if you believe that Paul was wrong on something in Scripture, you have twisted Scripture to your own destruction (2 Pet. 3:16). Since true believers will not be destroyed, this would put you outside of orthodoxy.
    I humbly and sincerely pray that you repent of this stance and trust in the Christ of the Bible.

  • http://brucedroppings.com Bruce

    Ethan,
    Inerrant in the originals. Since we no longer have the originals and we never will……is it safe to say then no manuscript, no translation is without error?
    How can inerrancy be an essential when the “originals” are vaporware.
    Even if we had the originals……we do not know if they are without error. As soon as Paul gave his dictation to whoever wrote for him there was a chance of error.
    Inerrancy is not a cardinal doctrine. Unless you believe in some form of divine transmission (the dictation theory) or some form of divine preservation (in the form of a manuscript line or particular translation) inerrancy can not be rationally sustained. It is a divisive doctrine that MOST Christians throughout history have not believed.
    One can believe the Bible is errant and still believe that it accomplishes what God intended it to. The Bible is not a science or history book. It is not a divine answer book. It is not all the truth there is. The Bible points us to Jesus and on that count it does its job.
    Bruce

  • http://fleurdelife.blogspot.com Steve

    Last time I checked, being a Christian was defined as following the teachings of CHRIST, not Paul. If Paul is the Christ, then I’ve just lost my savior. However, if Christ is still Christ, then I’m still saved and still a Christian.
    I believe what Paul wrote was inspired, but our interpretation of what he wrote is not. I believe it’s very important not to get ‘stuck’ in one frame of thought. We must remember, while the writing was inspired, nowhere in scripture does it say one interpretation of a verse is more inspired than another.

  • Jeebus Freak

    I don’t get that exactly from 2 Pet. 3:16. I could be wrong, but it seems to me that Peter is tackling the faith vs. works question, and like James does in his epistle, is trying to strike a kind of compromise. We should work to be good, and be found “blameless” on the last day. But, the longsuffering of our lord is salvation, as Paul says. I’m just guessing here, but I should think that those he is referring to as “wresting” with Paul’s words, are those who would twist Paul’s words to mean that since only grace saves, Chrisitanity really doesn’t have any rules and good works are worthless.
    That’s the very argument that I so often hear from the fundamentalist conservatives- they’re all about following rules, but good works (of charity especially) are worthless. Even when I expain that good works are a reponse to the salvation which I have already received and will never deserve, there is a persistent suspicion about all such activity from many. Ironic that Peter might have been referring to the very people who now insist on Paul’s inerrancy and superior position in the NT. (If for no other reason than to keep members of their mega-churches from thinking they should be spending the money they collect on something besides a fancier sanctuary.)
    Might have been. I can’t claim to know. I need to do some research on this epistle. Need to know who exactly Peter was addressing and what the problems were that those people were facing. That’s the only way we can figure out what kind of “wresting” Peter was decrying. By writing the passage naming Paul, and by writing the whole epistle on this topic, he was wresting with Paul’s epistles in a way- affirming, them, but adding his own conditions. Establishing the real context will require consulting some extra-biblical sources, and I bet I’ll find some varying possibilities. I wonder if Jason had already completed such research before he used this passage to predict our very destruction?

  • http://kevingpowell.blogspot.com Kevin Powell

    We all have parts of the bible that we think are “wrong.” “Liberals” think Paul was wrong about sexuality. Right Wing security folks see Jesus’ call to love your enemy has being treasonous in these post-911 times.
    I don’t accept the premise of your question because I think it assumes a kind of authority the bible doesn’t give itself. Being a Christian doesn’t mean following the teachings of the bible, it’s about being following Jesus in the way of the cross. The bible preaches this call, but our obedience is not to scripture, its to Jesus himself.
    Just my $0.02
    kgp

  • Panthera

    Kyle Nolan,
    I don’t see your comment as an attack.
    As several here have mentioned, context matters. My patience flew out the window when the christianists here started calling me a pedophile, saying they would happily dissolve my marriage – which they compared to incest – and other such things. When they say our rights are not civil and human rights because they don’t think homosexuality is innate, I wonder just how much of science they otherwise cherry-pick.
    Today, I adjust my tone to match that of the poster. If they read the Bible selectively, well, I just chose to leave out those passages which mandate turning the other cheek. If they reject what science has taught us, I reference the flat earth.
    If they are foolish enough to try to build specious arguments, I am ready to apply semantic analysis and ‘help’ them with their wording.
    This is not an armchair discussion, this is about real gays and transgendered who are oppressed by christianists. For too long, we tried being nice. Now it is time to fight back.
    When your opponents are stripping you of human rights you can fight back or it will end in the gas chambers. Again.

  • Rick C

    Rick-
    Your wrote:
    “To equate the Bible with God’s truth is ridiculous, since it’s an equivocal unsystematic mess that in many places doesn’t even correspond to historical and scientific reality as we understand it today.”
    Do you have any specific examples where this is true?

  • panthera

    Rick,
    I am not going to question the value of the Bible in many areas. But anyone who demands a literal reading is in for some serious difficulties.
    Here are just two, I could list many more:
    Both in Exodus (1:7) and in Numbers (1:45), we see a population growth among the Israelites which would basically require them to all be like that charming California woman who gives birth to eight at once.
    The city of Ai was destroyed, Joshua (8). In 8:28, Joshua we read that the city was never again occupied. Yet in Nehemia (7:32) we find it as one of Israel’s cities during the Babylonian captivity.
    Shall I go on? I can list many such statements which conflict without going into the more difficult question of interpretation.
    May I ask whether your curiosity is based on a fundamentalist and or literalistic and or Biblical inerrancy and or “God said it, the Bible wrote it, I believe it” basis?

  • Your Name

    Wow, I’m telling ya, go away a few days, and suddenly I’m famous.
    Or infamous. Take your pick.
    Anywho, to the op…
    –Under Original Sin: Paul, Romans 5, and the Heart of the Issue, Emergent Pillage brings up a point that has vexed me for some time.–
    Understandable.
    –He (I assume EP is a “he”) baldly asserts that if you think that Paul was wrong about something, “then at least have the integrity to not call yourself a Christian.”–
    Sounds ’bout right.
    –It’ll come as no surprise, but I wouldn’t phrase it quite like that.

    No, not surprising at all.
    –If you, through and honest and thoroughgoing process of study and discernment, come to decide that the Apostle Paul was wrong about something in his writings, have you forsaken your claim to be an orthodox Christian?–
    Yes.

  • Benjamin

    Honestly and Biblically, the answer to your question Tony, is yes
    The Scriptures are perfect in every way they are.
    NOT EVERY WAY THEY CAN BE
    yes, Christianity has committed the very sins we are told to abstain from–it has happened, it will happen and it is now happening. We’re sinners, because of our ORIGINAL SIN we cannot choose to be anything other than evil.
    BUT that does not disproof the fact that the Scriptures, when read correctly, and i mean literally and within right context, are perfect and profitable for teaching and rebuking
    if i were to say to my child; baby i love your green eyes and your brown hair. i love you so much.
    but my child actually has blue eyes and blonde hair, would i really be loving her? or am i loving my illusion of her?
    The only way we know God is through his Son and the main outpouring of his son is through his word, directly or indirectly and never contradicting it.

  • TImmy C.

    So was Paul’s statement in 1 Cor 7:12 that one of his statements “was Paul speaking, not the Lord” itself inspired by the Lord?
    (or more seriously)
    - Or that the entire population of Crete at the time are liars, as he told Titus?
    - Or that drinking wine will fix stomach ailments, as he told Timothy?
    - Or when he wished emasculation on his Galatian opponents?
    Whatever Scriptural inspiration and authority is: God didn’t seem to reach down and remove Paul’s human weaknesses, and create a “Super-Infallible-Paul” for just those 13 letters. Somehow the inspiration and authority came within those very human letters.

  • http://gracerules.wordpress.com/ Liz

    Good discussion – I thought Brian’s and Jeebus Freak were very helpful.
    Tony – It seems the answer to your question is: “it depends on who you ask”
    My answer is you can still be a Christian (even orthodox – I guess that means a right believing Christian) and think that Paul was wrong about something. However, more times than not, I think what we find is that there is more than one interpretation/understanding of what Paul said and one has to determine their own understanding of what Paul said (with the help of the H.S. and in community are certainly the safest places to work these things out). I also think we get in trouble in trying to use scripture that was written in a particular time and place and situation and make it fit exactly into another time and place and situation. Sometimes we have to look at the “spirit” of the message instead of the message. (I said sometimes)
    I would like to add that I look forward to the day when the question/debate about the inerrancy of the Bible is over and done with. What does it matter? I don’t believe scripture is inerrant but I do believe it is God inspired and profitable for instruction/teaching etc. I do believe that scripture is true – although I think that we have a hard time understanding truth at times and cannot get away from incorporating our own experiences/knowledge into our understanding. I don’t believe that something has to be factual to be true therefore I don’t believe that a story in scripture has to necessarily be about something that “really” happened in order to be true. I believe there is truth and I am seeking it but must accept the reality that I could be wrong about what I believe the truth to be. So I take what I believe to be true and try to apply it to my life as best I can with conviction but (that should be “BUT”) I attempt to do that with enough humility that I still have a teachable heart (in other words that I might be able to recognize that I am wrong about something I believe). It is messy and results in some tension but I believe it is the path to spiritual growth.
    And here’s something even more shocking: I even believe someone can be a Christian even if they do not agree with anything I have written in this comment!

  • http://www.salvationjunction.com Bruce Goff

    yes.

  • Doug

    If Paul’s writings are authoritative they are so not only because the church has said so for some 1500+ years but because they were inspiried by the Holy Spirit and Paul himself says that he recieved what he got by revelation through Jesus Christ. So if you say you don’t agree with Paul’s writings then by logic you are saying you don’t agree with Jesus Christ who gave them to him.

  • http://criticalbelief.com/ Marc

    Paul was not wrong, we’ve just read him incorrectly and N.T. Wrights has demonstrated that.
    Instead of letting Paul speak for himself we’ve read him through Luther, Calvin, Piper or whomever and not asked ourselves: 1) what was Paul’s purpose and situation and 2) how does this shed light on what Jesus said.
    Romans 5:12 does not say “all are guilty because Adam sinned” but that’s what conservative evangelicals say it means.
    Rom 3:21-28 does not say “we are saved on the basis of belief alone and not by good deeds” but again, that’s how we’re teaching it.
    And finally, Jesus does not say “no one gets to heaven except the Christians” but that’s what we teach.
    Paul was not wrong, our theology is.


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