Recently, I was engaged in a discussion, debate, argument, call it what you will, with one Chris [deleted] of [deleted] blog. I'm adding this as part of the series of posts that have come out of that discussion. Unlike the other parts, this post could easily be a stand-alone. I'm not discouraging anyone from reading the series or the whole site though.
A Little Background
Chris wrote a post about salvation by grace through faith. He wanted to encourage people to come to the ordered conclusion that faith doesn't save. "Grace through faith" is an expression that comes verbatim from Paul. I understand what Paul was saying. I understood it before reading Chris's post on it. When I first read Paul, I was taken aback by many things I read. They struck me as being quite inconsistent with Jesus's words. "Grace through faith" when taken in conjunction with the rest of Paul struck me that way. If you want to know more about how I view that particular expression and why I hold as I do, then certainly read the whole series here and more of this site if not all.
In our discussion, Chris was offended by, among many other things, my statements concerning Paul. Here's something Chris wrote that will lead into one of the reasons I'm not a Pauline Christian:
Let's take a look at what Paul brought forth, both for your sake and mine!
"Are they ministers of Christ?—I speak as a fool—I am more: in labors more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequently, in deaths often. From the Jews five times I received forty stripes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods; once I was stoned; three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I have been in the deep; in journeys often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils of my own countrymen, in perils of the Gentiles, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; in weariness and toil, in sleeplessness often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness—besides the other things, what comes upon me daily: my deep concern for all the churches." (2 Corinthians 11:23-28 NKJV)
What have you done for the sake of preaching the gospel that even comes close to this, Tom?
And before you answer this question, keep in mind that Paul lost his head for the sake of the Church!
In addition to putting this to me, Chris led it with this:
My advice to you, Tom, is to be humble. Your pride is keeping you from seeing the truth, which is why you place so little value on the ministry of Paul.
Okay, so what's here that gives me reason not to be Pauline? Let's look at 2 Corinthians 11:23-28. What's going on there? Paul is writing to a church he founded on his own foundation commanding them not to deviate from Paul. One of the devices he uses is boasting (his own term about himself). He does this by comparing what he went through relative to the others called the Apostles. He states quite directly that he did more than they did in pretty much every aspect concerning which he could think to detail. He knew that those others, the original disciples, did not agree completely with Paul's views. Most people who know this believe it was concerning Judaizing (circumcising) the Gentiles. It was concerning more than that though. It was concerning bringing forth for the sake of the poor. It was about works, deeds. They didn't see Paul putting enough emphasis upon works and deeds of that type, and I agree with them on that.
Now, Chris and others appeal to Aristotelian logic when they notice that it "works" for their purposes, but they don't employ it consistently, for Paul's device is illogical on Aristotelian grounds and quite frankly also on divine grounds (the only kind that signifies in the end), which I will discuss more fully below but not at length. Here is the Aristotelian logical fallacy Paul made.
It doesn't matter how much a person suffers as to whether or not he is right. Paul is appealing to the church to believe and to follow his commands over and above that of the others (James in particular, and John and then Peter, pretty much in that order) based upon that Paul had been through the things he delineated and enumerated in some detail. He actually remembered and recited every beating down to the number of strikes. He leaves things out of course. How hard were these whippings for instance, not that I think he should necessarily have gone into that aspect. He shouldn't have used the device in the way or for the reason he did. It was not for witnessing as to the saving power of God. That was not his impetus.
He didn't want them listening to James from Jerusalem saying anything contrary to where Paul placed Paul's emphasis. In doing that, he diminished the good that came from James about emphasizing giving and sharing all even if James was too ritualistic even by Jesus's standards.
I once read something many decades ago that stuck with me. I don't remember who it was who wrote it, but the man suggested that it is always better to let others build one up to yet others than it is to brag or boast, as Paul terms it. The man's point was that the humble will be lifted up in the end. So that's part of the point here. Isn't it ironic that Chris tells me to be humble for questioning Paul while Paul boasted so?
Now, I've been through this before, so I know what to anticipate. Paul couches all of his writing in how lowly he is and what a serpent he was persecuting others, etc. Here's what's going on though. Don't look at my boasting as boasting, because I denigrate and humble myself before you. In fact, I'm the best because not only do I have more to boast about in terms of having suffered, I can also boast of having been worse before then all the rest. I was a bigger sinner, the biggest sinner, and now I'm the best leader because I'm willing to be caught and beaten more, etc. Those are not reasons to follow anyone and shouldn't be put forth as such. They are deceptive reasons, and even Aristotelian logic suggests it. Divine logic doesn't hesitate to say it though.
You never hear Jesus saying anything like what Paul said. You don't hear him listing out his suffering or sins. In fact, you hear him saying things that trend in the opposite direction. If that weren't important, he wouldn't have done it that way.
While sin is relative, all sin, each sin, is terrible. What we've done is terrible no matter how slight or great by mundane standards. We are aiming for the perfection that is God. Call a sin slight without seeing it from the divine perspective, and the infinite gap between any sin and God's perfect state is missed.
There is a time and place for confession, but when does it turn into bragging for acceptance for mundane reasons (ego). Is this a contest where one holds up one's sins "overcome" as if the deeper one fell and is willing to brag about it the more that one ought to be the leader? Is there a time and place for letting others know that no matter how low they've gone they can turn around? Yes; however, when does personal witnessing for righteousness' sake cross the line to become bragging for ego's sake? This is no small matter.
Since Aristotle was Hellenistic (a mixed bag) to say the least and because Chris and Paul employ Aristotle for divine logic, let's continue looking at this from that place. As reported by Diogenes Laertius in his work, Lives and Opinions of Eminent Philosophers, a man said to Antisthenes that many people praise Antisthenes. Antisthenes asked him, "Why, what evil have I done?" Antisthenes then showed the man the hole in his Antisthenes's coat. Socrates replied, "I see your vanity through the hole in your cloak." Diogenes Laertius is apparently the sole source for this, and some doubt his worth. Regardless, the point here is valid even if taken in the hypothetical. Now, I don't hold with everything Socratic, but the point attributed to Socrates here is applicable to Paul's long list of sufferings.
Socrates points to Antisthenes vanity. James says, "But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?" (James 2:20 KJVR)
What does Jesus say?
And whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted. (Matthew 23:12 KJVR)
What I see and hear and feel when I read Paul is someone who is torturing this concept. There is bragging under the cover of humbling and humbling that is bragging. It is done in the name of putting forth Christ who said to do neither. Is it a harmless mistake on Paul's part? Well, I say he didn't see it.
Look, followers of Christ are not obligated to be followers of Paul. The question is whether followers of Christ can be followers of Paul. More particularly, one might ask just how far if at all can Paul lead souls in the right direction or does he say other things in conjunction with itemizing his sufferings that just stop any movement on the narrow way?
I say that his sexism is completely inconsistent with Jesus. Jesus did have twelve male disciples, but he had female disciples as well. He did have to work within the culture to lead from it to the real Promised Land. Paul's attitudes about covering the head and the length of hair (aside from mere practicality) are also inconsistent with where Jesus placed emphasis and are but distractions with no bearing upon coming to righteousness.
Every man praying or prophesying, having his head covered, dishonoureth his head. But every woman that prayeth or prophesieth with her head uncovered dishonoureth her head: for that is even all one as if she were shaven. For if the woman be not covered, let her also be shorn: but if it be a shame for a woman to be shorn or shaven, let her be covered. For a man indeed ought not to cover his head, forasmuch as he is the image and glory of God: but the woman is the glory of the man. (1 Corinthians 11:4-7 KJVR)
Doth not even nature itself teach you, that, if a man have long hair, it is a shame unto him? (1 Corinthians 11:14 KJVR)
Hair and head coverings have nothing to do with the law of God being written in the heart. In addition, nature doesn't teach what Paul claims. Men aren't born with hair cutters. Of course, hair and head coverings can be totally contrived and therefore have nothing to do with aiding one in becoming real. That's not Paul's point here though. Paul is being arbitrary and not voicing something given by the Holy Spirit. These pronouncements by Paul are not inspired words from God.
Also, his hierarchical structure is not based squarely upon Jesus's teachings concerning first and last and spiritual versus biological and immediate family. By Paul's standard, no one from a broken mundane home may lead. That's wrong. This issue of the structure of the church (who should lead and why) is huge.
His teaching about the temporal state being ordained of God and therefore to be followed is completely wrong. Jesus showed that that temporal state was not ordained of God in the sense Paul leads his followers to misconstrue but was allowed by God in the sense of the freewill choice to be wrong and wicked. Jesus went to the cross in proof of this.
This difference sets up a paradox that is reconcilable if and only if one learns the language of the revelation of Jesus Christ. To my mind, Paul was not completely fluent in that language.
Contrary to Chris's conclusions, saying these things does not constitute pride or wickedness on my part. Chris's position is a double standard. It's okay for Paul to say what he thought about the other Apostles but not okay for me to do the same concerning Paul. I don't hold with such hypocrisy.
Also, I did not set out for things to turn this way vis-a-vis Chris. I was looking for Chris to not get stuck where he has lodged himself.
To what has following Paul versus following Jesus led? Following Paul has led to oppressing women when the fact of the matter is that plenty of women are way ahead of their husbands in spiritual understanding and should be seen as such and given place everywhere in that regard — credit where credit is due.
Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience, as also saith the law. (1 Corinthians 14:34 KJVR)
This is selective Judaizing. Judaizing is what Paul supposedly fought against. He also ignored here all the prophetesses of the Bible and also those women Paul himself built up in his own letters.
This is not to say that there is no complementing each other as wife and husband — one flesh. Following Paul has led to the "just war" scenario (a hugely unchristian position) and to following orders from the mundane/temporal state no matter how unchristian, including to kill the innocent via bombing and capital punishment, etc.
For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same: For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil. (Romans 13:3-4 KJVR)
Please, how many rulers do we all know full well are terrors to good works? How many people were right not to follow the orders of Hitler regardless of the fact that all people and Jews had sinned? Hitler was Satan, and the people were left unsaved by God. Whose fault is that though? Regardless, Hitler's wrath was not righteous. He went way beyond that into sheer evil. Paul's writing confuses this at best. Surely any honest, truth-loving person can see that.
Following Paul has led to professing and not doing. Paul has allowed and encouraged the confusion that is Aristotelianism being not only interjected but holding sway in what would otherwise be Christianity. This opening has allowed for all sorts of errors — one might say "unintended consequences."
What hasn't happened is the thing called Christianity in name bringing forth. That hasn't happened primarily due to all the emphasis placed upon the hereafter and the forgiveness of sins rather than the here and now and the hereafter and the forgiveness of sins and repentance and atonement. Atonement is all but dispensed with. This is all very convenient for those who torture righteousness so they may cling to their worldly possessions in the here and now rather then bringing forth the Christian Commons.
It is at this point that Chris [deleted] and so many others part with me. I haven't bothered to look, but in all the times I communicated the terms "Christian Commons" and "Commons" to Chris and asked him his view, I don't recall his ever using either term. The only things I was met with were a continually closing of his door with increasingly frequent and more emphatic statements concerning my wickedness until supposedly he closed the door completely and pronounced that he would never comment here again.
I don't say this with any spirit other than to edify for the sake of righteousness. I make no secret that I don't agree with Chris's position. I don't want people following him to where giving and sharing all in the here and now is not one of the things that real Christianity is all about. They won't join the Commons if they do. If I didn't think the Commons is necessary, I wouldn't have been moved to put any of this website on the Internet.
Contrast Paul and Jesus here, following Jesus and not Paul would lead to an end to the oppression of women, an end to all wars, and the bringing forth of the real Christian condition everywhere. That is an infinitely huge difference between stopping short under Paul and going all the way under Jesus.
Was Paul Satan? Yes and no, as understood by Jesus calling Peter Satan and yet warning Peter that Satan will sift Peter as wheat. One will not comprehend what's going on there without learning how to speak the language of the revelation, which is not based upon Aristotelianism and cannot be learned by sticking with it exclusively. Aristotelianism must be transcended to begin to understand Jesus.
Aristotle did not speak or teach the language. Many of the rudimentary aspects of learning the language threw Aristotle, and he wrote against them just as Thomas Jefferson and many others wrote against the language. Jefferson of course had the benefit of being able to read the Gospels and still couldn't comprehend.
Aristotle was not foundationally soft-hearted. That's a helpful bit of information in beginning to learn the language.
Lastly, I do not throw away souls. That's not my place. I'm not here to throw away souls. I'm here turning and doing my best to be through the strait gate and on the narrow way for the sake of all who will benefit by that. It's that simple. I don't relegate those of the past to the levels of Heaven and Hell or to the right or left of Jesus. I look at Jesus and say, he's right. Show me a better way. Until you do, I'm following Jesus. By the way, you never will show me a better way. You can't improve upon the perfect. That's not close-minded. That's being completely open to learning what God has to teach.