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:

  • pollution of idols
  • eating or drinking of blood
  • eating of strangled things
  • fornication
  • .

    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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    Basically, if you can affirm this you're a Christian:

    I believe in God, the Father Almighty,
    the Creator of heaven and earth,
    and in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord:

    Who was conceived of the Holy Spirit,
    born of the Virgin Mary,
    suffered under Pontius Pilate,
    was crucified, died, and was buried.

    He descended into hell.

    The third day He arose again from the dead.

    He ascended into heaven
    and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty,
    whence He shall come to judge the living and the dead.

    I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic* church,
    the communion of saints,
    the forgiveness of sins,
    the resurrection of the body,
    and life everlasting.


    *Small-c catholic, in the original sense of the world, the universal Church.

    Anyone but a raving fundamentalist (and there really aren't many of those around) would affirm the salvation of these men--but many would disagree immensely with their theology. It is akin to political liberals' stretching of the Constitution to unrecognizable measures. There is a tradition of Biblical interpretation, and to read into the Bible as if it were a Modernist, humanist document is just as incorrect as reading the Bible as if it were a scientific textbooks, as some ultraconservatives do. Twenty centuries' worth of witness to the Faith condemn the hijacking of the Bible to serve the goals of far-left theologians. If one is no longer willing to accept the Bible as the normative guide for life and practice, one should cease calling oneself a Christian.

    So to sum up: Yes, they're Christians -- but that's not their fault.

    Tim   ·  November 6, 2003 8:53 PM

    The Society of Friends (the Quakers) does not require - or ask for - a litmus test along the lines of an affirmation of specific beliefs. That is, with the possible exception of pacifism (and I do not meet that test). Paul is commenting on Christ's life and thought and makes claims about the nature of Christ's divinity. A committee several hundred years later decided to enshrine Paul's opinions... so what? I was saved by grace, not by Paul's letters.

    Ghost of a flea   ·  November 8, 2003 8:41 AM

    Interesting! Not much is said about the Quakers these days. They are generally thought of as pacifist in the extreme. Yet the absence of litmus tests is admirable. Unitarians are also considered left wing, but I know a libertarian Republican who tells me he feels welcome at the Unitarian Church, even though he disagrees with most of them politically.

    Come to think of it, wasn't the hated "war-monger" Richard Nixon (that's the guy who ended the Vietnam War) a Quaker? I'll bet he'd offer some very sage advice for Republicans today.

    Here's something he said in the early '90s:

    "We have too much bashing of everyone in this party. It's an embarrassment. So many people are gay -- or go both ways. I don't care. I don't want to hear about it. ... I don't go for this outing business. If someone is gay, that's their business, and they should have the right to protect their privacy about it."
    --Richard Nixon, according to Monica Crowley's new book Nixon Off the Record.


    Eric Scheie   ·  November 8, 2003 11:46 AM

    Wow!!!! If Nixon said _that_, then he was up there on a level with Goldwater! He's my hero for sure now! I always liked his _style_, but _this_ -- just excellent! Thank you, Mr. President!
    (And he did, after all, give us Justice Harry Blackmun: "The right to privacy reflects the moral fact that the individual belongs to himself and not to others or to society." -dissent in Bowers vs. Hardwick, 1986) (just as President Reagan gave us Justice Anthony Kennedy: "At the heart of liberty is the right to define one's own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life" -Planned Parenthood vs. Casey, quoted also in Lawrence and Garner vs. Texas, June 26, 2003)

    Steven Malcolm Anderson   ·  November 9, 2003 11:51 AM

    "For God so loved the world, that he gave his ony begotten Son, that whosoever beleiveth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life." John 3:16

    All Sins have paid for, past, present and future. Paul knew this and taught it also.

    PumpkinPie   ·  April 25, 2004 11:32 AM

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