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Many will come in my name, claiming I am the Christ and they will deceive many. (Matt 24:5)
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Now correct me if I am wrong, but it seems to me that if Jesus was right about what he was saying here, just before he was crucified, then Paul and his Roman based Christian religion were the most likely ones he was talking about; because nowhere in history do we have a more likely bunch of deceivers.
Just before he said that, in his address to the multitude (Matt 23) http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Matt23;&version=31; Jesus gives an accurate description of what the Roman Catholic Church was destined to become, a revamped version of everything he hated about the religious nutcases that surrounded him. He spoke about setting yourself above others and expecting of them what you can’t live up to yourself. He says they will swallow up the property of widows, under the cover of long prayers and traverse the seas to proselytize, creating converts who will be twice as damned as themselves; blind fools. He then accuses their forefathers of murdering the prophets and predicts they are about to make the same mistake.
I think Jesus used Saul of Tarsus (Paul, main contributor to the New Testament) to fulfil his prophesy, the way Saul used Jesus to fulfil his belief; that a Christ had to hang on a cross for the salvation of all those who would join his Human sacrifice cult. In his letter to the Romans, Saul (alias Paul), after giving himself a big rap, launches into an attack against peoples sexual preferences rather than addressing his own evil actions and doesn’t even mention the fact he had been involved in murder and torcher (oh, how history repeats it’s self).
He goes on to condemn every type of human behaviour as worthy of death and hell, from his concept of god, and then makes the statement we shouldn’t judge people; in the texts that have been used to judge more people than any other in history. He goes to great pains to point out that only those who obey the LAW can be worthy, as his gospel proclaims, and then contradicts himself by saying we can only be saved by grace. Not to be content with that great big faux pas, he ends up the third chapter by setting the law on its right footing by saying that it’s neither obedience to the law nor grace that saves, but faith; while he consigns pride to the trash can.
Paul (the self proclaimed expert on everything) then launches into a tirade of apologetics that only a man suffering from a bad case of guilt’s could possibly appreciate. Chapter after chapter of religious gobbledy gook, enough that if anyone today started raving on about in a public place, they would automatically be redeployed to the loony bin. Where is his credentials to make these outrageous statements? Who is his witness that he was commissioned by Jesus? Why does he get to speak as though he was the voice of God on earth? What possesses fundamentalists to admire this mans ravings so much, when they are very reluctant to embrace Jesus’ teaching on excessive wealth, open displays of piety, unnecessary use of the defensive sword and the non-bias view of women in positions of authority?

December 15, 2008 9:44 PM

Ken Brown said…

Oh Wayne, you do like to push my buttons! You can be grateful for one thing though: I have no plans "to become a card carrying member of the clergy." No, I’ll probably lock myself in an ivory tower somewhere–much safer! 😉
Anyway, as you might imagine, I have all manner of objections to your comments:
1. I’m not sure what you mean by "Paul and his Roman based religion," seeing as Paul only visited Rome once (and it was after this letter was written), as a prisoner. And how did he become a prisoner? Romans 15:22-33 itself points to the answer, and Acts 21-28 fills in the details: he took an offering from his Gentile churches to help "the poor of Jerusalem" (who were suffering from a famine), and was arrested for his troubles. In fact, his goal seems to have been to restore some unity between Jews and Gentiles, but political tensions in Judea being what they were (leading to outright war within a decade), gifts from Gentiles were viewed with suspicion. Paul knew this (cf. Rom 15:31), but delivered the gift anyway. According to Acts 21, he was arrested because the mob thought he was defiling the Temple by associating with Gentiles–shame on him for claiming that Gentiles can be accepted by God just like any Jew!
Now I’m curious, are you Jewish? Because if not, I would think you might appreciate that particular aspect of Paul’s theology. It is, of course, a central aspect of the argument of Romans (see my section 4 above). All that "religious gobbledy gook" and stuff about not judging you mentioned, it’s all about God’s offer of redemption being open to all people, Jew and Gentile alike.
2. I find it strange that you single out the Catholic Church for abuse, unless it’s because you think it an easy target (as you know, I’m not Catholic). No doubt your accusations would stick against various and sundry members of Catholicism (present or historical), and that is a scandal and a tragedy. But the same is true of virtually every other committed religious and atheistic group who has gained power–power corrupts, and there are always self-righteous bigots willing to abuse it; they come in all political colors. This is as true in contemporary America (on both right and left) as it was in Calvin’s Geneva, Stalin’s Russia, or 16th C. Spain, but there is far more (and much good) to the Catholic church than such abuses, and it is both unfair and untrue to paint Catholicism with such a broadly negative brush. Still, I agree that it is deeply ironic how often the Church (in all its forms) has been guilty of the very hypocrisy Jesus condemned. Indeed, how often we evangelicals apply Jesus’ condemnations to our enemies, when we ourselves fit the bill much better!
But I’m curious why you think Paul sides with the bigots on this point? As you yourself noted, the whole point of Romans 2-3 is to reject our presumptious judgment of others: since all of us are sinners (Paul included! You have read Romans 7, right? "wretched man that I am; who will save me from this body of death!"), we have no right to judge one another. God surely has the right to judge us, but what does Paul say our attitude should be towards our "enemies"? The same as Jesus said, in fact: "Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse…. Never avenge yourselves… rather, ‘if you enemy is hungry, feed him, if he is thirsty, give him something to drink….’ Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good" (Rom 12:14-21). That countless Christians have ignored both Jesus and Paul on this matter is obvious; that Paul should be blamed for that failure is silly.
3. You claim that Paul condemns all manner of sin (not "every type of human behavior"!) as worthy of "death and hell," but seem to have overlooked that: 1. Paul never once mentions hell, in Romans or any other letter (I’m sorry to say, you have to look to Jesus to hear about eternal damnation); and 2. Paul also claims that Christ has secured mercy and redemption for everyone (Rom 5:12-21; 11:25-32). According to Romans, all of us deserve death and condemnation (and hell?), but God instead offers us–all of us–life and grace.
4. As for the "contradiction" between the law and grace, then, it is hardly Paul’s invention. It is a necessary conclusion from Israel’s belief in God’s goodness and faithfulness: If God is good and requires us to be good–but we are not good!–then God can either abandon us to our sins (that would be the "death and hell" you mention) or he can love and save us despite ourselves. But if God simply ignores our sin, then he is not good after all, any more than we would call a human judge good who let every criminal go free. This is a problem, then, faced by everyone who believes in God’s goodness and love, and it is addressed in various ways throughout both the Jewish scriptures and the New Testament, including by Jesus (e.g. Matt 18:21-35). You may disagree with Paul when he claims that when Jesus, the sinless Son of God, died on our behalf, he solved that dilemma (cf. my section 5 above), but that doesn’t remove the "contradiction;" it only leaves it unsolved. Do you have a better solution to offer?
5. As for your objection that Paul, self-authoritatively, offers "chapter after chapter of religious gobbledy gook," you’re gonna have to be more specific. What in particular do you think is nonsense? Personally, while there are a number of things that I find puzzling in Romans, and at least a few that–if I understand Paul correctly–I don’t think I agree with, I don’t see anything nonsensical or worthy of a nuthouse, so I really do not know to what you are referring.
But you accusation against those who "admire this man’s ravings so much, when they are very reluctant to embrace Jesus’… non-bias view of women in positions of authority" is ironic, given that Romans 16 itself provides perhaps the most positive portrayal of women in authority in the entire New Testament. In this chapter, Paul greets 29 people, and fully a third of them are women of some authority in the Roman church: Phoebe, a "deacon" who seems to have been carrying the letter (16:1-2); Prisca; Mary; Junia, "outstanding among the apostles"! (16:7); Tryphaena; Tryphosa; Persis; Rufus’ mother; Julia; and the sister of Nereus. How this is to be reconciled with 1 Cor 14:33-35 is another question (for which I have no answer–that would be one of those passages where I disagree with Paul, as do virtually all Christians, whether they admit it or not!), but nothing in Romans itself suggests the least hesitation towards women in leadership–Paul here seems to consider them equals. It’s a tragedy so many of Paul’s followers haven’t felt the same.

December 16, 2008 11:08 PM

Wayne said…

Dear Ken,
Thanks for your comprehensive review and for the easy to answer point format.
1.Paul’s Roman based church.
As you well know Paul prided himself on being a Roman citizen and appealed to Caesar for a Roman based trial; hence why he was contained to Rome for his latter years.
As for the farce about collecting money for the poor I doubt any of it ever got to the needy,just as today most of it get taken up with administration costs. Not that any of that has anything to do with the point of my article, which is how, why, and when was he ordained to act as an agent for Jesus and why does he get the right to make such huge statements about how people should live their lives, just because he was a reformed ass-hole. I DON’T GET IT.
Now I’m curious are you gay (not that there’s anything wrong with that)because if not, I don’t know why you are interested in the state of my pecker. Whether or not I am circumcised or Jewish is an example of the gobbledy-gook I was talking about, WHO CARES?
2.Singling out the Catholics.
I mentioned the Roman Catholic Church because they were, by their own definition, the one and only church who canonized the Bible and deified Paul and they were responsible for the bulk of European atrocities for millennial plus years, while they followed and espoused Paul’s teachings.
It is interesting though, how you lumped them in together with Stalin and George Bush, you just forgot to mention Hitler; or would that be too absurd?
I’m curious on how you don’t see Paul as a bigot and staunchly defend him sometimes over Jesus, who in my opinion was a much better man and who’s teachings were far superior to Paul’s Hotch-potch.If you had to choose one over the other to blame for the mess, which one would it be?
3.1_ Yet again you miss the mark by favoring semantics. It’s not whether Paul talks about hell, sin and salvation but what makes him feel like it’s his job to do so. If you or I wrote a letter like that the recipient would at least have the right to ask, WHO ARE YOU, to say such things?
3.2_ According to Paul,
all of us humans deserve death and eternal damnation unless we believe he and his mates nailed Jesus to a cross for our benefit. That’s right up there with Santa (anagram for Satan) bouncing your kids on his knee,in his red suit, while you blow all your money on useless junk for the profit of the already wealthy.They could be two of the biggest scams in history.
4.As for the contradiction,
My better solution is that it is a manufactured problem designed to make us feel guilty so that the ones with no conscience can preside as our intercessors therefore; don’t feed the fear. Live as though you are worthy of the life that God gave you and be appreciative of it.
As for the metaphor of the judge who let the guilty go free. I think what we are talking about would be better described by picturing the god of Israel as a judge that hung the innocent and kept the guilty in bondage.
5.Paul’s letters, chapter after chapter of religious gobbledygook.
Jesus’ teaching were beautifully crafted, concise, picturesque lessons on how to live a better life free from manipulative church authorities and self inflicted dogmas.They were personally delivered under the stars and sky by a man that had the support of the people who loved him. Paul’s teachings, on the other hand, were complicated, contradictory, troublesome dogma, delivered by postmen from a man that nobody liked, who coldly dictated to a servant like Luke in absentia from the job at hand.The mean spirited nature of the documents has created controversy for as long as they have been read and if you want to defend his garble of pius words over the simplicity of the sermon on the mount then by all means, support the man who was Jesus’ number one enemy. WWW

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