I just sent a note to another blogger who has some serious, thoughtful objections to Paul's teachings in the New Testament. (Hey, join the club!)

She goes on to write that she just doesn't know if she can continue to believe that the Bible is infallible, and this shakes her faith in Christianity itself. That's an understandable reaction, and I admire her candor. Some of my readers have wondered how I could maintain any faith in Christianity, given the obvious imperfections of the Bible. I'll provide y'all with the same thought experiment that I shared with her:

"....my faith does not depend on any teaching that the Bible is either inerrant nor infallible. Let us go further than that, though, for the sake of a rhetorical point. Let us pretend that the Bible is not merely fallible, but irredeemably wicked. If all the Bibles in the world were confiscated and burned, would that mean the end of Christianity?"

I invite reader responses.


Stan said...

Paul's letters were addressing specific issues at specific churches, within the existing culture. When considered within the culture of the day the letters make sense. They were not intended to address all issues in all cultures in all timeframes, but were intended to address local issues, to demonstrate the principles involved in theism and to encourage the embryonic christian enclaves.

Why should we be surprised to see advice that is couched in another era which doesn't fit into to modern paganism, the culture of today's western nations? Modern culture is Man-driven and centers on that which man likes best: self-indugence, not only in creature comfort, but also in personal philosophy.

Being uncomfortable with Paul's writings might mean that we are uncomfortable with their culture, or it might mean that we are uncomfortable with the all-too-human approach to attempting to solve human problems within the Christian context as understood by Paul.

Paul and Peter did not agree on certain issues, and this is duly recorded; it does not falsify the Christian underpinnings of either person. It demonstrates that humans aren't the dominant character in Christianity, are not perfect, and must struggle to understand, much less to carry out the principles of Christianity.

Anonymous said...

Actually, Stan, the issues that Paul contends with in each of those churches are the same basic issues that exist today in the churches, i.e., sin in its various forms in contrast to the holiness that God wants us to attain to. This is the beauty of the scriptures, that the teachings apply throughout time eternal, since they deal with the human condition. The writings of Paul as authoritative to the church today as they were to the churches he originally wrote to. While Paul was addressing specific issues that were occurring at the different churches (even some that were brought about by cultural norms and practices), his writings DO address ALL issues with ALL churches in ALL cultures when taken collectively as a whole.

While it is true that the peoples of each region had their own cultures, there was a universal commonality that all the churches shared in their beliefs and theological practices as a result of the instructions of the Apostles. For example, the day of worship was common among all the churches (the first day of the week). The specific acts of worship were also the same, praying, singing, teaching, giving to the church, and the memorial of the Lord using unleavened bread and "fruit of the vine".

The only issue I recall Peter and Paul disagreeing on was the acceptance vs. discrimination of the Gentiles. This issue was not merely a matter of opinion. This was an issue that was either right or wrong and Peter was in the wrong and had sinned. A better example would be Paul vs. Barnabas in reference to John-Mark. This was truly a matter of opinion and neither was wrong or right in this issue. There was no sin invovled.

I hope you are not suggesting that Peter and Paul taught different theology based on their own opinions. On the contrary, their teachings are in harmony with each other.

Anonymous said...

Scott, the question you posed is kind of like asking if God could make a rock that He couldn't lift. The same God who inspired 40 people over a 2000+ year period to harmoniously record his word, and who has caused his word to be innerantly copied and translated over time, is the same God who will never allow his word to disappear from the presence of man.

My faith in the Creator comes not solely from the written word, but from the evidence of the creation. However, without God's written word we would not know how to please Him. Since this is not His will, that we live without this knowledge, I believe that we will always have His word with us. God could not judge man based upon His word that He allowed to cease to exist and at the same time be a loving and just God. This is not his nature. But similar, less-draconian things have happened in the past when Christians were persecuted (pre and post-Constantine), and when the Catholic church kept the scriptures from being translated into the common languages. Regardless of these trials people still worshipped in secret and wrote the word from what they had committed to memory. (That is what faith does. It drives people to do the seemingly impossible.) Because of this, I do not believe what you proposed would ever keep people from practicing their Christian faith.