thromas, you mention Marcus Borg. Borg notes conventional wisdom is so profusely ensconced, that it imposes its own reality. Indeed, Borg and John Dominic Crossan co-authored a book about Paul noting that Paul is both “appealing and appalling” before they affirm 100% support and turn the work into an apologetic to try and soothe concerns about what’s appalling! [pg. 85]
If anyone has problems downloading via the link, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org and give me your email address, and I can email you the 8,960 KB document. It is not brief, because the reader or believer needs substantiation from several angles in order to feel confident dealing with the topic, the reasons to scrutinize Paul’s credibility and authenticity. There are illustrations, satire, and colorful terminology in it. Burl, you asked for a summation. Here we go:
Your reaction to this “examination” is unpredictable. It depends upon how deep and fixed your beliefs are about tradition, which can impede what we perceive and evaluate in scripture. Neither spirituality, intelligence, or education can compare to the power of belief, of conventional wisdom and tradition we inherit and are taught. Gerd Ludemann refers to it “subconsciously lodged in the mind of scholars”.
Paul’s apparent contradictions to Jesus and much other incongruity survived . . . impervious to reformations, centuries of free-thinkers, and even the most conscientious academic scrutiny.
Neuroscientist Dr. Kathleen Taylor explains how this could happen. Beliefs involve connections between neurons, our “cognitive web” or “cogweb”. Usually, our perceptions are “subservient to reality”. But in ambiguous value-laden beliefs as religion, strong cogwebs can “filter incoming stimuli or distort the cognitive landscape, a warping effect . . . a black hole”.
The more visceral emotional potency of Paul’s writings (ie. his emphasis on “human depravity”) produced stronger and deeper “cognitive webs” in ways that Jesus’ teachings did not. That history became our inherited tradition. It matters less that there is reduced guilt and shame today, rather that this accounts for why Paul went unexamined and did not get the academic scrutiny deserved.
Most clergy still are immersed in tradition; that and holy ritual still evokes the visceral (dignity). But academics still have a duty to examine even accepted tradition, to avoid those “black holes”!
Among the topics explored which we generally do not hear about:
- Neither Paul, nor tradition, explains how a “different gospel” is justified, nor why the teachings of Jesus Christ could so quickly and radically become contradicted. The differences are not really about circumcision or Torah, Jews or Gentiles. The REAL differences are about “human depravity” and carnal evil which Billy Graham thundered about from his podium . . . traced to “Romans”.
- Paul evidently concealed his revealed gospel from Jerusalem, even from Barnabas.
- Paul deceives about the independent authority he claimed from Jerusalem. (Galatians)
- Romans’/Barth proves sexuality phobia afflicted Paul. Bishop Spong argues it was homophobia (pg 22). Either way, it was the catalyst for Augustine’s “Original Sin”.
- The contention and estrangement, even condemnation and satire, the hostility between Paul and the Jerusalem apostles is not really or sufficiently explained.
- Appeals to Glory: Paul’s elitism and indignation repudiated the egalitarian love and inclusiveness of Jesus for all. The catalyst for “Calvinism” and “thorns and thistles”.
Such discussion is startling for most church-going readers. So there is point on page 14, where the reader is asked to take stock of their anxiety level, and stop reading if they feel uneasy.
The essay then gets into more provocative matters, devoting five pages to a discussion of Romans chapters six thru eight, and Karl Barth’s commentary. It continues with a six page section on why the Epistles should be scrutinized, based on evidence from within which normally is not brought out to our attention.
Jesus was NOT a zealot or ascetic [James Carroll, pg 12]. The Jerusalem apostles continued to reflect this Jesus in their early community. Per the Didache: “we thank thee, our Father, for the life and knowledge which thou hast made known unto us through Jesus”. The term “love” or “loving” appears more than twice as often as “sin”. The “Post-Easter Jesus” they experienced did not change this.
Would this same “Post-Easter” Jesus then appear to an ascetic Pharisee, revealing “a different gospel” where one must “crucify passions and desires”, and “put to death the deeds of the body” or die? Would this same “Post-Easter” omniscient Jesus endorse the Breast Ripper and Pear of Anguish that would become used in his name? Is this conceivable?
OR instead is “Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and today, and forever” . . . and the dogmatic power of tradition and conformity blinds “all but a few” from recognizing the fulfillment of Matthew 7: 13-23?
The essay then explores [6 pages] the concepts behind the ascetic “God of Wrath” tradition, including Jonathan Edwards “Sinners in the Hands of An Angry God” sermon. This is contrasted with a new-paradigm outline of Jesus and his teachings, contrasted to the asceticism of John the Baptist and Paul.
There is a discussion [7 pages] of Paul’s appeals to promises of glory and exaltation and vigilance to shun the impure, with a statistical review of Bible Belt states proving beliefs of sexual fear, shame, and piety are futility, and instead of glory, are pathways to distortion and suffering. A high correlation coefficient of 75.7% on sex offenders, for example, but there is much more, including higher porn usage, in the metrics.
There is then what I call “The REAL Trinity”: a five page outline of 1) the Parables and Sermon on the Mount categorization and topics of Jesus’ teachings compared with the 2) Jesuit Values, and 3) Seven Principles of the UUA (Unitarian Universalist Association, humanists) in order to demonstrate the fascinating and encouraging parity between these three sets of beliefs; without influence of Paul.
There is a six page section on comparing that to Paul’s doctrines, and the Calvinism which it inspired. That is followed by a four page “Thorns and Thistles” section with extended discussion of Matthew 7:13-23, because this is the criteria that Jesus left us to consider, in testing for the truth, and recognizing his prophecy that the vast majority would be misled by imposters, that only a few would find the truth.
This is followed by a four page section which deals with the legacy of the Jesuits. The Jesuits do not repudiate Paul, being only one of 30 Catholic orders, but they radically focus on Jesus. The Jesuits prove that the teachings of Jesus are sustainable and workable. The Jesuits prove that religion is not doomed to gravitate into becoming an organ of power and fear, of “sex police” or holier-than-thou enforcers of dignity. To anyone, Protestant or Catholic, the Jesuit legacy assures us that a better faith and richer life awaits those willing to scrutinize their “Christian” orthodoxy.
There is a “Day of Reckoning” section starting on page 70 with charts showing the collapse of mainstream denominations, with a review of a recent New York Times commentary on principles needed to save the church. To contrast with that, there is a three-page section on the recent “Benedict Option” book and the “Nashville Statement”, which shows the recent (and surprising) changes that Evangelicals are trying to implement. Then, the conclusion . . .
Like Barnabas who worked with him and vouched for him, now we must part company with Paul. Paul represented a religion that was completely different, and in most beliefs contradictory, to that of Jesus. A contradiction so severe that Paul’s claims of revelation are incredible, he channels believers towards unloving faith and behavior which Jesus would have classified as sinful.
It seems impossible that someone who would think and write with such eloquence could be less than trustworthy. He defined our faith, copiously wrapping the name of Jesus Christ into his own ideals, tormented alienation against human nature. The Jerusalem apostles who Paul satirized intervened. But fraud, deviancy, the “thorns and thistles” was foretold. The bottom line is Paul was a clever but deceptive soul whose disgust for the “deeds of the body” knew no bounds, faking an unabashed canard wrapped in Jesus’ name, so beguiling and grandiose that it never got vetted.
As bad as that is, it is not as bad as those after him, corrupted by the power in this type of religion.
There are five reasons why it is impossible to believe in Paul’s apostleship while following Jesus:
1. Paul taught a deviating plan of salvation based on piety, rivalry, and elitism. The role of Jesus is reduced to The Cross, his teachings trivialized. Paul “makes a mockery of Jesus’ clarion call to service” and love (Lüdemann, pg 88, Matt 25:31-46, etc).
· The Elect were predestined to accept Paul’s religion. (Romans 8:28-30, Ephesians 1:4-5*)
· “Christ died for us . . . justified by his blood, we are saved by him from the wrath of God” (Rom 5:8-9)
· “If you (then) confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved”. (Romans 10:9)
· The waters of baptism will then start a bodily transformation to be fulfilled in the resurrection, which Paul considered imminent. Until then, the Eucharist could immunize the worthy from sickness, even death. (1 Corinth 11:30; 15:51-52, 2 Corinth 4:16; 5:16-18. Also appendix pgs 91-94)
· Believers therefore should not be experiencing passions or lusts, and with proper diligence can defend “our façade of unimpeachable propriety” and deny the flesh. (Romans 7: 4-6; 12:1-2; Galatians 5:24)
· Paul continually appeals to promises of Glory and Exaltation (Romans 8:18; 29-30; 9:22-23)
2. Paul believes in the “God of Wrath” (Rom 1:18, Eph 5:6) and his religion and personal behavior is intolerant and egotistical. Scorn is inflicted upon the Jerusalem apostles and other “meddlers”.
LGBT defamation, “cause” and curse which betrays homophobia (Romans 1:24-28, 1 Cor 6:9-18).
Transgressors and heretics are to be shunned (Rom 16:17-18, 1 Cor 5:11-13, Eph 5:6-11*)
Paul’s hostility and defensiveness is ceaseless. (Gal 2:1-11, 1 Tim 6:3-4*, Philippians 3: 2-3).
Arrogant leadership authority where “no one looks down at you”. (Titus 2:15*, 2 Cor 4:3-4, 12:11-12) and Paul says he completes “what was lacking in Jesus’ suffering” (Colossians 1:24*, Philippians 2:17)
3. Paul’s religion is fulfilled in Calvinism, class subjugation, and unjust marginalization for the many:
Let a woman learn in silence with full submission. I permit no woman to teach or to have authority”.
(1 Timothy 2: 11-12*, 1 Cor 14:34-35). *[Pseudo-Paul but a key part of our religion / his legacy]
Limited Atonement: redeems only the Elect from “Sinful Passions”. (Christ died to rescue Paul from his “wretchedness”, the “sin that dwells in his members”, his “Body of Death” - Rom 7) while most other souls were prechosen for a hopeless life of unbelief, idolatry, unholiness, and “vile affections”? (Rom 1)
4. The prevalence of dread and contempt that Paul continually expresses about human sexuality (Rom 6:12-14, 1 Cor 9:27, 2 Cor 12;21, 1 Thess 4:2-7, 1 Tim 5:11-12, Rom 13:14) and his frustration that baptism has not provided the cleansing transformation he theorized, irresponsibly reduces the gospel to a battle against concupiscence and a legacy of psychological afflictions and abuse.
5. Paul’s emphasis on individualistic sanctification, on resurrection and atonement (Romans 3:23-25, 6:22-23), supplanted the emphasis for compassion and community that Jesus advocated. Our church, our world would be so different. Paul’s reminders about love and charity rings hollow as sanctification is based upon cleanliness of the pious, not engagement with others. Holier-than-thou indignity, shunning and that cringe-inducing intolerance remains in Paul’s core toolbox.
The reader is encouraged to download and use the entire document, as substantiation from several angles is needed in order to successfully get thru all of this without anxiety. Belief in orthodoxy is otherwise so strong, that most will try to do cerebral somersaults or other intellectual contortions, or concentrate on minutia, or argue points with me . . . anything other than to realize the fulfillment of Matthew 7:13-23 and that there is no safety in numbers or in conformity. For tuned-in believers, there is instead validity in being among the few. And if one does not believe or one’s faith is numbed, why the hell continue to care about Paul’s “Different Gospel” anyway?