By Femi Aribisala.
“The writings of Paul have been a danger and a hidden rock; the causes of the principal defects of Christian theology.” (Ernest Renan).
The critique of Paul’s jaundiced theology often results in a barrage of ungodly abuses and invective from Christian pretenders. Then there are those who use Paul’s nonsensical logic to justify Paul. They will quote to you Paul’s self-serving statement that: “The natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.” (1 Corinthians 2:14).
This is a classic Pauline oxymoron. If the natural man cannot receive the things of the Spirit, then no man can receive it because all men start out as natural men before becoming spiritual. Paul himself, in his usual convoluted logic, admits this. He says: “The spiritual is not first, but the natural, and afterward the spiritual.” (1 Corinthians 15:46).
Many undiscerning Christians are impervious to Paul’s fallacies. But the sheep of Jesus would never confuse them with the word of God. If nothing else, the perspectives presented here should prompt serious-minded Christians to take a critical second-look at Paul. Paradoxically, Paul himself says: “Test everything that is said. Hold on to what is good.” (1 Thessalonians 5:21). Our salvation just might depend on it.
The famous theologian, Helmut Koester, declares in his “The Theological Aspects of Primitive Christian Heresy:” “Paul himself stands in the twilight zone of heresy. Sayings of Jesus do not play a role in Paul’s understanding of the event of salvation. Paul did not care at all what Jesus had said. Had Paul been completely successful very little of the sayings of Jesus would have survived.”
Gerald Friedlander, Jewish Minister of the West London Synagogue, writes in “The Jewish Sources of the Sermon on the Mount:” “Paul has surely nothing to do with the Sermon on the Mount. The Sermon says: ‘Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravening wolves’ (Matt.vii.15). This is generally understood as a warning against untrustworthy leaders in religion. Does the verse express the experience of the primitive Church? Might it not be a warning against Paul and his followers?”
Johann Gottlieb Fichte, a German philosopher, writes in “Characteristics of the Present Age:” “(The) Christian System (is) a degenerate form of Christianity, and the authorship of which (must be) ascribed to the Apostle Paul.”
H.L. Mencken, regarded as one of the most influential American writers of the first half of the 20th century, writes in his “Notes on Democracy:” “Is it argued by any rational man that the debased Christianity cherished by the mob in all the Christian countries of today, has any colourable likeness to the body of ideas preached by Christ? The plain fact is that this bogus Christianity has no more relation to the system of Christ than it has to Aristotle. It is the invention of Paul and his attendant rabble-rousers.
The result was a code of doctrines so discordant and so nonsensical that no two men since, examining it at length, have ever agreed upon its precise meaning. Paul remains the arch theologian of the mob. His turgid and witless metaphysics make Christianity bearable to men who would otherwise be repelled by Christ’s simple and magnificent reduction of the duties of man to the duties of a gentle-man.”
The renowned English philosopher Jeremy Bentham, in his “Not Paul but Jesus,” declares: “By the two persons in question, as represented in the two sources of information- the Gospels and Paul’s Epistles- two quite different, if not opposite, religions are inculcated: and that, in the religion of Jesus may be found all the good that has ever been the result of the compound so incongruously and unhappily made,- in the religion of Paul, all the mischief, which, in such disastrous abundance, has so indisputably flowed from it.”
Bart Ehrman, American New Testament scholar and Professor of Religious Studies at University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, writes in “The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture:” “Paul was quite insistent that keeping the Law would never bring Salvation. The only way to be saved, for Paul, was to trust Jesus’ death and resurrection. Paul transformed the religion of Jesus into a religion about Jesus.”
Holger Kersten writes in “The Jesus Conspiracy:” “Paul has little interest in the words and teachings of Jesus, but he makes everything depend on his own teaching: the salvation from sins by the vicarious sacrificial death of Jesus. Does it not seem most strange that Jesus himself did not give the slightest hint that he intended to save the entire faithful section of humanity by his death? Christianity has his narrow-minded fanaticism to thank for numerous detrimental developments, which are diametrically opposed to the spirit of Jesus.”
Peter Annet, English deist and freethinker, writes in “Critical Examination of the Life of St. Paul:” “We should never finish, were we to relate all the contradictions which are to be found in the writings attributed to St. Paul. Generally speaking it is St. Paul that ought to be regarded as the true founder of Christian theology which from its foundation has been incessantly agitated by quarrels (and) divisions.”
Ernest Renan, French theologian and expert of Middle East ancient languages and civilizations, writes in his book, “Saint Paul:” “True Christianity, which will last forever, comes from the gospel words of Christ, not from the epistles of Paul. The writings of Paul have been a danger and a hidden rock; the causes of the principal defects of Christian theology.”
The American philosopher, Will Durant; in his “Caesar and Christ,” writes: “Paul created a theology of which none but the vaguest warrants can be found in the words of Christ. Through these interpretations Paul could neglect the actual life and sayings of Jesus, which he had not directly known. Paul replaced conduct with creed as the test of virtue. It was a tragic change.”
C.S. Lewis writes in “Scripture:” “Descending lower, we find a somewhat similar difficulty with St. Paul. I cannot be the only reader who has wondered why God, having given him so many gifts, withheld from him (what would to us seem so necessary for the first Christian theologian) that of lucidity and orderly exposition.”
Stephen Mitchell, world renowned translator of sacred texts, writes in “The Gospel according to Jesus:” “Paul of Tarsus (was) the most misleading of the earliest Christian writers, (and) a particularly difficult character: arrogant, self-righteous, filled with murderous hatred of his opponents, terrified of God, oppressed by what he felt as the burden of the (Mosaic) Law, overwhelmed by his sense of sin. He didn’t understand Jesus at all. He wasn’t even interested in Jesus; just in his own idea of the Christ.”
Robert Frost, winner of the Pulitzer Prize for poetry in 1924, 1931, 1937 and 1943, in his “A Masque of Mercy,” writes: “Paul, he’s in the Bible too. He is the fellow who theologized Christ almost out of Christianity. Look out for him.”
We should not automatically accept Paul because his epistles are in the bible. Instead, it is imperative to ascertain if Paul’s word is in consonance with that of Jesus. Jesus requires no less. He asks: “Why don’t you judge for yourselves what is right?” (Luke 12:57).