Lest We Be Hypocrites, Let’s Interpret Paul the Apostle by Vetting His Ideas According To Reason: A brief response to David Braine

“You ever read Thomas Paine? He compared Paul to a monk in a cell and Jesus to a man walking in the healthy air of creation. And it was precisely because of this point. You can’t earn anything its all of grace is patently Pauline. But “do X and great shall be your reward in heaven” is patently Jesusy. But we’re all trained from our youth up to ignore those kinds of sayings of Jesus because Paul says nananabooboo to them.”David,

When you first posted here John Immel texted me saying that he thought you were James Jordan. I agreed…but I had some minor doubts. Not so much anymore. LOL 🙂

You don’t like Paul…if you are James Jordan, you know my thoughts on him. I deny that he espouses gnosticism in his epistles. I understand that he was tasked with bringing the message of a Jewish Christ to people who were steeped in a philosophy that had little if any frame of reference for such ideas. As such, Paul was presented with a difficult and frankly, thankless (at least “temporally” speaking) task…and, certainly, he deserved it. Add to that his natural tendency, which is so obvious, to have just a hell of a time getting to the point, or even finding it at all (on some occasions I find that Paul makes a broad claim, yet never truly defines it…for example, why is long hair a shame to men, exactly?, and what is “unwholesome speech” exactly?), and Paul was bound for an eternity of criticism and accusations of “heretic”. Add to that his odious and short temper, which is evident throughout his epistles, as evidenced by his tendency to take quick offense to challenges of his ideas and his authority with long and almost incoherent soliloquies on why he is an equal Apostle, and…well, yes, you get the idea. He was told he’d suffer for Jesus’s name, and he did. And in reading Paul, and being exposed to ghastly and destructive interpretations of him by Reformed deviants, so, it seems, do we.

So are his Christian ideas hard to ferret out? Hell yes. Do his epistles call for a superficial, “plain reading” of the text? That is an extremely naive approach to Paul. Do I reject ideas of his which I cannot reconcile with reason (as defined by: man must utterly exist as a separate and wholly self-aware agent, in and of himself, with all actions and ideas beginning and ending with himself as the singularity of his own existence…categorically distinct from God, and is, as such, the standard of his own TRUTH in both this life and the next)? Yes I do.

But I feel that rejecting Paul for the same ostensible and superficial interpretations of his ideas by which the Protestant demagogues and tyrants accept them is hypocritical. And worse…it is irrational.

Having said that, I do not mind your input in the least. You make Christians uncomfortable with your ideas and I really fucking like that. Christians have gotten intellectually fat and rationally lazy and philosophically stupid because they have conceded the reasonless, pathetic, ignorant, slothful, silly, stupid, insane, asinine and, frankly, evil idea that to believe in God means blasting reason into the vacuum of mystery. To them, God cannot be explained rationally because man is unable to reconcile God to his very existence because his existence is a perfect epistemological and moral failure. This means that doubting God as they define him is proof that you are “unelect” and outside of God’s concern and compassion. The hypocrisy which they will have to answer for, and likely fail, is: how can they judge others for not apprehending God and condemning them as morally corrupt for their blindness when by their own doctrine they admit to the very same blindness? If you cannot explain God according to reason then you cannot explain God. Period. Full stop. Reason is the arbiter of truth. There is no other. And to pretend to understand God’s revelation and yet have no rational grounds for “understanding” is a contradiction in terms.

So…you make Christians think. You challenge them and you piss them off. And that is just fine by me.

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5 thoughts on “Lest We Be Hypocrites, Let’s Interpret Paul the Apostle by Vetting His Ideas According To Reason: A brief response to David Braine

  1. I didn’t say a Gnostic, I said a monk in a cell. Most monks were not and still aren’t Gnostic. I’m not arguing for a rejection of Paul like James Jordan, but for a rational downsizing of Paul’s inflated ego and our veneration of it.

    I am persuaded that Paul meant something simple but didn’t know how to say it in a simple manner. The assumption that he was a big brain leads people astray. They begin to think that every word, every letter, oozes with meaning. The fact is you have to take him with a grain of salt. The letter kills but the spirit gives life. That is, the exact wording of Paul kills, but what he is trying so hard to say, what all his fumbling rhetoric is really about (e.g. in Romans with all this meandering about justification and something that sounds like predestination is simply that Jews and Gentiles are on equal footing before God, nothing more than that) gives life.

  2. Well, I don’t entirely disagree with you. You make excellent points, as I have said. And I too think that people seem to believe that when Paul became a Christian he became some kind of Ghandi. Just read his letters! I submit that much of the old, bullish, angry and opinionated Paul is still quite prevalent. His toughness I suppose made him suitable as an Apostle to the Gentiles, but not so much a scholar. Or a diplomat.

  3. Argo! You are so right. Paul is presented as a sort of Gandhi figure overshadowing Jesus in so much of Protestantism.

    Yet the description of Saul in Acts paints a much different picture. I think folks give him too much credit for studying under Gamaliel. One would think such a lofty student would be a rabbinical scholar with students at his feet and not traveling around throwing women and children into prison. Then the crafty guy was guarding cloaks for those stoning Stephen.

    Yet, so many have put him in the “scholar” category because he is the only ‘sent one” who was a Pharisee. As if that gives him some sort of street cred the others could not have. Quite frankly, I find Dr. Luke easier to follow. I suspect Peter did, too. (wink)

    Paul has surpassed Jesus in popularity going back to about 400 AD. Why is that, is the real question. Because Paul is much easier to twist than Jesus? Which means that Paul did overcomplicate things. Jesus did not.

  4. On Gamaliel incidentally Christian tradition holds him up as the greatest rabbi ever, with no reason for doing so other than that his name is associated with Paul. In the Mishnah (the first Jewish text to be added to the Jewish canon after the Old Testament, and the document that the Talmud is actually a commentary on) Gamaliel is presented as the biggest hypocrite of all the Pharisees. He teaches his disciples that one is not to say the Shema on his wedding night. Yet his disciples heard that on one of his wedding nights (yes, you read that right) he did say the Shema so they questioned him on it. And his reply “I am not like other men.” He teaches his disciples that it is a sin to morn the death of a slave, and then when his slave dies, he mourns, and his disciples question him on it, and his answer is “My slave is not like other slaves.” Etc. Basically, the rules he makes apply to everyone but himself.

  5. It is very interesting, indeed. In SGM easily Paul is the topic of sermons the vast majority of the time. In fact, I can only remember one sermon in all my fifteen years which dealt specifically with Jesus, and was preached from a gospel text, not one of Paul’s epistles. It was a sermon by Bob Kauflin, heavily affected of course (as all SGM Pastors assumed that incorporating CJ’s wisdom meant, first and foremost, assuming his annoying mannerisms), with the usual presumptions of background, attitudes, assumptions, and tones of the characters.

    Huh. Funny…I can only remember the bullshit, not so much the point.

    I think that was by design, actually. Keep us all doped up on emotional hysterics and artistic (pastoral?) license…and in our stupor we’ll ignore the rational sodomy on stage.

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