November 06, 2003
Christian heresy or Paulinist heresy?
While I am no theologian, I would like to pose a simple theological question.
Is it possible to disagree with Saint Paul and be a Christian? At least one Anglican bishop thinks so:
I see no law in St. Paul. I see laws in the Old Testament but most Christians do not pay much attention to them, believing as we do that Christ transcended the law. (The churches I see living by the law enslave people with their commandments: no pork, no coffee, no tea, no tobacco, no alcohol, no betel nut, no dancing, no work on Saturday, no celebration of the day of Resurrection; but St. Paul has nothing but contempt for such "faith".) I see specific condemnations of specific relationships in St. Paul but the specific relationships are very unlike anything I experience. And very many of St. Paulís other specific condemnations (not always consistent anyway) have long since been re-worked by the church. In the end, St. Paul (especially the mature St. Paul) is more about the radical freedom that Christ gives than imposing "Christian law."OK. The guy is a bishop.
Is the bishop a Christian?
No trick question here; I would like to know.
As to Saint Paul, he was the first great Christian missionary, but he never met Jesus personally. Did this give him more of a right to define Christianity than Jesus?
Are Paul's thoughts binding on all followers of Jesus, for all time?
The irony here is that notwithstanding his statements against homosexuality, Paul felt free to abrogate the old testament. At the Council of Jerusalem in 50 A.D., Jewish Law was basically thrown out for Christians, except as a compromise measure four things were prohibited:
Am I going to Hell for eating burritos with blood sausage? Hey, I didn't write these rules, but they must mean something, right?
Whether the rule against fornication included homosexuality has been debated, but why would this early compromise become permanently binding as law for all time? Gentile Christians were told to abstain from them, but the penalties from Leviticus were not recited, so it would not make sense to call them a reenactment of Leviticus. And in any case, from where derives the notion of Paul as a law giver?
Is disagreement with Paul (or with certain interpretations of the Council of Jerusalem) "heresy?" Who gets to say?
Believe it or not, another Anglican bishop has suggested that Paul might have been himself homosexual:
At first glance, the argument that St. Paul was homosexual seems absurd, as it may be. After all was not he the one who condemned gay people in Romans, and elsewhere? There is considerable debate over those anti-gay "proof -texts", but whatever the conclusions, there is much, as Anglican Bishop of Newark John Spong has pointed out, which leads one to suspect Paul might have been "queer" in some way. The fact he was never married, unusual for a Jew of his time, his companionship with a series of younger men, especially St. Timothy, his mention of an unnamed "thorn in the flesh", and, possibly, his disdain for some types of exploitative homosexual relationship in his period, all raise questions which cannot be answered it must be admitted, about his sexuality. It should also be added that despite Paul's modern reputation for placing women lower than men, he also penned revolutionary words about the absolute equality of all believers in Christ, a complete destruction of prevailing social codes and norms that has only intermittently played out in full in Church history.I don't have to take sides on this, but once again, I ask: Is this bishop a Christian? Are Christians allowed to pose such questions?
Is it "anti-Christian bigotry" to quote Christian bishops with divergent views of Saint Paul?
Who gets to accuse whom?
posted by Eric on 11.06.03 at 05:17 PM
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