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February 1, 2010

Why I am not a fundamentalist

Filed under: St. Paul — Petros @ 6:37 pm
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Christian fundamentalism is a movement in Christianity which in opposition to Christian liberalism insists upon the inerrancy of the Scriptures.  While I have sometimes worked, worshiped and prayed with fundamentalists, and I do consider them in most cases to be true Christians and brothers in the Lord, I do not identify with them.  I am rather pentecostal, evangelical and charismatic in my tendencies, and this can be seen in the schools I’ve attended Northwest College (now University) of the Assemblies of God (pentecostal); Regent College (evangelical); while at University of Cambridge I was associated with Tyndale House (evangelical) and currently I attend a charismatic church (Emmanual Anglican, Richvale).  Thus, the following critiques stand as one clearly outside fundamentalism.  But I hereby offer some points which can explain why I am not a fundamentalist.

(1) I do not agree with the doctrine of inerrancy.  I do not agree that it should the first line of a creed, since we worship God not the Bible.  I do believe that God inspired the biblical writers, that it constitutes reliable and authoritative Scripture.  I believe that it can be read in Church and it should be the “text” of sermons.  I believe it is worthy of lifelong study and have thus devoted myself to understanding its text.

But my hesitancy with the doctrine of inerrancy is this:  (1) the Bible is in human language which is an imperfect vehicle of communication. Thus, an inerrant text is not even a possibility.  (2) The Bible is read by imperfect interpreters, so even if an inerrant text existed, there are no inerrant readers.  So inerrancy is an irrelevant doctrine because it has no practical application.  (3) Even if there was an inerrant autograph, we do not have that the autographs, but rather a manuscript tradition.  So we are not dealing with a text that we even have, but one which we believe to have been magically preserved (King James only people) or one which is reconstructed by flawed scholars (NA27; UBS3) who are themselves not inerrant.  I am no liberal.  On the other hand, I do not believe the doctrine of inerrancy to be a good way to counter liberalism.

(2) A rigid view of the Bible leads to Pharisaical legalism in practice.  Too often the fundamentalist tendency leads to rigid legalism that confuses the Christian faith with a set of rules about drinking, dancing, wearing make-up, and going to movies.  One contemporary issue is the frequent ban of women pastors , based upon a rigid reading of Paul which I think even Paul himself would not be able to accept.

(3) In fundamentalism, a rigid understanding of the Bible often ursurps the role of the Holy Spirit.  As I heard once, there is often a very solid confession amongst many Christians in the holy trinity:  the Father, the Son and the Holy Bible.

Take the ban on women pastors for example, which is based upon 1 Cor 14.34-35 and 1 Tim 2.11-15.  If in the first century Paul was confronted with problems in his churches and he found contemporary culturally sensitive solutions to those problems by following the direction of the Holy Spirit and then implementing certain directives in the church, I say we have today the same freedom today, using Paul’s advice to the Corinthians or to Timothy as a model.  There is thus no excuse us for using the NT as the new nomos (law) when it comes to contemporary practice.  Paul’s own impetus is advancement of the gospel and thus of the Kingdom of God.  When it comes to the role of woman, for example, I think it is appropriate to take all the biblical passages about women into consideration, to pray, and to follow the leading of the Holy Spirit in the community in making a decision which will help the gospel to thrive the best in any given culture.  Our goal as Christians should not be first and foremost promotion of women’s rights.  Nor should it be to follow rigidly rules in the Bible.  Our highest goal and our priority is to promote the Kingdom of God.  Even when you consider Paul’s recommendations in the context of 1 Tim for example, his priority is not that women should behave, but to correct women’s behaviour because of how it is negatively affecting the image of the gospel.

(4) Fundamentalism too easily confuses culture with Christianity.  In Africa I once saw a painting of a pastor teaching sunday school;  while the children wore African-style clothing, the pastor was wearing a suit and tie.  The imposition of Western culture in the African context by fundamentalist missionaries can still be felt today.  This is something that needs to be overcome.  I agree today with those who wish to contextualize Christianity in the African context, to find appropriate African expressions of what it means to be a Christian, over against those who apply a rigid Western understanding of the Christian faith and practice in an African setting.  Fundamentlists are often unable to distinguish legitimate contextualization from syncretism and therefore condemn too readily people who try to find culturally appropriate expressions of the Christian faith.

(5) Fundamentalism tends to be extremely sectarian and divisive.  Once one is so sure of their own position on a biblical text, they can easily dismiss others as non-Christian or heretical.  As a charismatic Anglican or a pentecostal, I personally would not say that fundamentalists are not Christian brothers or sisters, but they might too easily say that I am of the devil because I speak in tongues; and this is some what contradictory because the Bible which they hold in such high esteem says, “Do not forbid speaking in tongues.”  But this is because sometimes in fundamentalism, we will find the next point.  Yet the point is not that they have a inerrant text:  fundamentalist often act as though they have an inerrant hermeneutic.

(6) In fundamentlism, a priori systematic theology often usurps the Bible as the final authority.  This is especially true of the doctrine of Dispensationalism as first invented by Darby.  The teaching that speaking in tongues is no longer valid comes from Dispensationalism.  The dispensation for the gifts died out with the age of the apostles and thus, all speaking tongues or prophecies, even healings and miracles, are invalid today.  Thus, my experiences with speaking in tongues, miracles and prophecy, as a charismatic/pentecostal Christian, have all been either demonically inspired or psychologically induced.

 

 

March 28, 2009

St. Paul: Lenten Course

Filed under: St. Paul — Petros @ 9:05 pm

Lenten Course Paul:  Emmanuel Anglican Church, March 29, 2009

Paul before the Damascus Road experience:

Main Bible passages Gal 1.11-17; Phil 3.2-11; Acts 7.58-8.1,  9.1-9

Paul was a citizen of Tarsus (Acts 21.39) and of Rome (Acts 16.37);  he was born a Roman citizen (Acts 22.28).

Paul was a Pharisee, which was an elite group of about 6000 men, highly trained in the Jewish law.  He studied under Gamaliel (Acts 22.3), a leading Rabbi who sat on the Sanhedrin (Acts 5.34) who had an impudent disciple [b. Shabbat 30b].  In all likelihood then, Paul was a scribe, an expert in the law.  In today’s term, Paul would have been a PhD; but not only that, he would eventually have become a “professor” in the European sense.

Saul was the persecutor in chief of the Christians.  He did not take his mentor’s advice (Acts 5.34).  He watched over and approved the illegal killing of Stephen (Acts 7-8).  In the Roman empire, only a Roman governor could sentence someone to death.  As a Roman citizen Saul knew this.

A Second cent desription of Paul reads (Acts of Paul III, 2-3):

A certain man named Onesiphorus, having heard that Paul was arriving in Iconium, went out with his sons, Semaia and Zenon, and with his wife, Lectra, to meet Paul to receive him into his home. For Titus had described to him Paul’s appearance, since he did not know him in the flesh but only in the spirit.  He walked out to the Royal Road which leads to Lystra and he stood there waiting for Paul; he watched the people who were arriving, comparing them to Titus’ report. Now, he saw Paul coming, a man small in size, bald, bowlegged, vigorous, with joined eyebrows and a nose slightly aquiline, full of grace; for sometimes he appeared as a man, sometimes he had the face of an angel.

Paul writes, “Does not nature itself teach you that for a man to wear long hair is degrading to him , …” (1 Cor 11.14).  Nature causes men’s hair to fall out.  I asked Peter why he wears his hair so short, because when I first met him he had long hair.  His response, now that he is in his forties, is that it doesn’t look good anymore.

Paul icon St. Andrei Rublyov, 15th cent.

Paul icon St. Andrei Rublyov, 15th cent.

Paul’s “Lenten experience”

Paul was blinded, a metaphor for his spiritual blindness.  Only upon admission of blindness then a person can see (John 9).

Three days of absolute fasting (no food or water).

He would be prayed for by a prophet that God sent to him, Ananias; God would heal him from his blindness.

He would count everything in his former life as “shit” σκύβαλα (from the Greek word group from which we derive the word, “scatological”).

Paul after the Damascus Road experience:

After meeting Sergius Paulus, Saul becomes Paulus (means “small”, “diminutive”) in Latin (see Acts 13.7-13)

After Paul is introduced to the Jerusalem church he goes and stays in Tarsus for about 14 years.  Barnabas retrieves him to help in the mission of Antioch.  After that Paul travels with Barnabas, then later with Silas, and plants churches in Asia (modern Turkey), Greece and Macedonia.  He boasted to the Corinthians about his suffering (2 Cor 11.21-29 ;RSV):

But whatever any one dares to boast of—I am speaking as a fool—I also dare to boast of that. 22 Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am I. Are they descendants of Abraham? So am I. 23 Are they servants of Christ? I am a better one—I am talking like a madman—with far greater labors, far more imprisonments, with countless beatings, and often near death. 24 Five times I have received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. 25 Three times I have been beaten with rods; once I was stoned. Three times I have been shipwrecked; a night and a day I have been adrift at sea; 26 on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brethren; 27 in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. 28 And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure upon me of my anxiety for all the churches. 29 Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is made to fall, and I am not indignant?

He returns to Jerusalem is arrested, where he appeals to Caesar as was his right as a Roman citizen; and he travels to Rome as a prisoner, and stay two years in Rome under house arrest.  After that the historical record becomes less clear.  It is likely that he was released by Nero, traveled again to the East and was rearrested and died by beheading under Nero.  See my post on Paul’s Martyrdom.

What is different after Paul’s Lenten Experience?

Paul is zealous for Jesus and the Gospel.

Before Paul was zealous for the traditions of his Fathers; now Paul puts the advancement of the Gospel before rules and traditions. Jews had rules about what to eat and with whom one could eat.  Paul broke those rules in order to win people to Christ.  At the same time, Paul would eat or drink nothing if it would offend a person, even though he knew we are free to eat or drink.  His concern is still winning that person to Christ. (see 1 Cor 9.19f.).  In Antioch Paul rebuked Peter over withdrawing from eating with Gentiles (Galatians 2), because some from James had come.  Why?  Because his vision was not that there would be two churches:  one Jews where people were justified by works of the law (sabbath keeping, circumcision, keeping holy days); one of Gentiles where the Jewish rules were unimportant; but one church, where everyone was justified by faith not works of the law; where everyone together could sit at table and eat and celebrate the Lord’s Supper together.

Christians are often concerned about rules:  Peter once told me that if he doesn’t sit in a certain place during the service, certain people would complain.  We are concerned about whether women should become priest or should be allowed to preach.  Often one side of the debate is worried about rules of tradition or rules of the Bible (1 Tim 2.11-15); the other side is worried about fairness.  But neither of the one nor the other side would have excited Paul.  Paul would be concerned above all with the advancement of the gospel that he received via revelation of Jesus Christ.

Update:

Notes after the class:  I couldn’t find corroboration for Brian’s point that Gamaliel became the high priest after Ananias and Caiaphas.

N. T. Wright writes in The Resurrection of the Son of God, 376:

… there has been considerable debate as to whether ‘conversion’ is the best term for it, since Paul was not, in our modern sense, ‘changing religions’ but receiving, so he believed, a fuller revelation from the god he had always worshipped.  It has always been stressed, however (rightly in my view), that there are definite elements of ‘conversion’ in what happened to him.

Paul’s Martyrdom

From Corpus Paulinum, Sept. 12, 2000:

Until now I have observed silently the discussion on the death of Paul with some interest, as I am currently working on the Acts of Paul.

Karl Heinz Schmidtke wrote:

It is clear that Eusebius is very insistent that Paul actually died, and equally insistent that Paul and Peter died under Nero and in Rome. This very insistence is a mark of  Eusebian polemic against the heretical view that Paul was “elevated”, for which we have even earlier literary evidence (e.g. 1 Clement 5 as another lister has pointed out off list). Paul (at least in part) thought of himself as an Elijah figure (Rom 11), and this is the point of the heretical view (also attested in Polycarp, Philippians 9; Epiphanius and the Armenian Acts of Paul among others) that Eusebius seems intent on countering. Do scholars on this list accept Eusebius’ view that Peter and Paul died under Nero in Rome?

In two cases where Eusebius relates Paul’s death, he appears neither to create a new tradition (that Paul has died in Rome) nor to counter a heresy (that Paul was translated living in the fashion of Elijah). Eusebius’s purpose is first historical. He is writing an account of the church from its origins to his own day. He does this by relying especially on written traditions available to him. In h.e. 2.22.1, he writes that “tradition has it” that Paul defended himself before Nero in Rome (referring to his imprisionment in Acts 28), was released. He returned to the same city to be martyred. Eusebius maintains that Paul wrote 2 Tim during this second imprisonment.

In h.e. 2.25.5f., Eusebius cites Caius of Rome, who was active while Zephyrinus was bishop (199-217) and Dionysius of bishop of Corinth (late 2nd cent.). Furthermore, Eusebius maintains that Paul was beheaded in keeping both with the Acts of Paul and with the legal means of executing a Roman citizen (cf. Acts). Surely the Acts of Paul is one of the traditions upon which Eusebius relies, since he almost certainly knew it, placing it in the category of disputed books with Revelation, Shepherd, et al. (h.e. 3.25.4). This reliance could explain two facts of Eusebius: (1) the beheading of Paul (see Martyrdom of Paul [Acts of Paul XIV] 5); (2) Eusebius’ theory that Paul was released and recaptured, which he may have deduced from the two very different and incompatible accounts of the Paul’s journeys to Rome in the canonical Acts and in the Acts of Paul. Willy Rordorf (see =Ecrits apocryphes chrétiens, vol 1, François Bovon and Pierre Geoltrain, eds.) and I now date the Acts of Paul ca. 150 in any case, it is another second-century tradition referring to Paul’s death. I do not recall from my reading (some years ago) of the Armenian Martyrdom of Paul this idea that Paul was translated. The Armenian is in any case dependent on the Greek Martyrdom, at the end of which Paul appears alive. But one must argue that this is in spirit only, since he has already been decapitated (ch. 5); after death, he appears to Nero saying (ch. 6), “Caesar, behold it is Paul, the soldier of God. I am not dead but living.” Is this where Herr Schmidtke gets the notion of an Elijah-like Paul?  1 Clement 5.7 does indeed say that Paul was “taken up”. But the immediate context indicates that both Peter and Paul suffered martyrdom (1 Clement 5.2; LCL): “Through jealousy and envy the greatest and most righteous pillars of the Church were persecuted and contended unto death.”

Polycarp, Phil. 9, also implies that Paul, like Ignatius, suffered martyrdom. Finally, one must add Ignatius’ testimony (Eph. 12.2, LCL): “… you are the passage for those who are being slain for the sake of God, fellow initiates with Paul, who was sanctified, who gained a good report, who was right blessed, in whose footsteps may I be found when I shall attain to God …” Thus, Ignatius hopes to imitate Paul by travelling to Rome and suffering martyrdom. According to tradition, he attained his wish.

Thus, we are not in the position of merely judging Eusebius’ own view of Paul’s martyrdom in Rome but of judging the whole superstructure of tradition on which he bases his point of view and which was deeply entrenched in the church already in the 2nd century.

Finally, I am completely unaware of an early church heresy which held that Paul did not die. If such a opinion existed, I would certainly like to see the evidence, as my ignorance on the matter would be a great fault.  I do not accept Herr Schmidtke’s interpretation of those texts which I have been able to check (i.e., Philippians, Romans 11, Polycarp, Phil. 9, 1 Clement 5, and the Armenian Martyrdom of Paul). None of them offers tangible historical evidence that anyone in the early church held such a view.

Perhaps Herr Schmidtke would be so kind as to indicate a reference in Epiphanius’ voluminous corpus so that I might also check it too. Or is there some other text not yet mentioned?

Peter W. Dunn
Concord, Ontario

Paul’s wife

Filed under: St. Paul — Petros @ 9:50 am
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The full thread of the discussion (Oct 23-26, 2000) is found here, here, here, and here.

From Corpus Paulinum 23 Oct. 2000

Jim West wrote:
>any bib on whether paul was married etc would be appreciated.
>
See Henry Chadwick, Alexandrian Christianity 33-34, 64-65 (Clement of Alexandria, Strom. 3.53, who interprets Phil 4.3 as refering to Paul’s
wife).

Peter W. Dunn

From Corpus Paulinum 23 Oct 2000
Liz Fried wrote:
>I personally doubt he’d be galavanting all around the world if he were
>a married man.

Let me cite Clement of Alexandria from Chadwick’s translation (strom. 3.53):

Even Paul did not hesitate in one letter to address his consort. The only reason why he did not take her about with him was that it would have been an inconvenience for his ministry. Accordingly he says in a letter: ‘Have we not a right to take about with us a wife that is a sister like the other apostles?’ But the latter, in accordance with their particular ministry, devoted themselves to preaching without any distraction, and took their wives with them not as women with whom they had marriage relations, but as sisters, that they might be their fellow-ministers in dealing with housewives. It was through them that the Lord’s teaching penetrated also the women’s quarters without any scandal being aroused.

If indeed Syzyges (Phil 4.3) was his wife, one could speculate the following: Paul arrives in Philippi a single man. He is invited to the house of Lydia which becomes his base of ministry. He marries Lydia to avoid scandal, though their marriage may be no more than a convenience.  When Paul moves on, he leaves Lydia in Philippi. Thus, as Clement suggests, he does not exercise his right to bring along his wife, but this does not mean he is unmarried. Lydia remains in Philippi, lending leadership stability to the church in Philippi, while selling her purple cloth and supporting Paul financially in his mission. Given Jesus’ declaration regarding the reward for those who leave their wives, etc., it does not seem impossible for Paul to have been married.

F.F. Bruce writes on Acts 16.14-15: “The fancy that one of them became more than her guest–that, as S. Baring-Gould [A Study of St. Paul (London, 1897)] urged, ‘she and Paul were either married at Philippi or would have been so but for untoward circumstances’–may be dismissed as nothing but a fancy” (NICNT). I am not so sure. If Lydia were already married, how does she have the right to invite Paul into her home without first consulting her husband? I don’t think she was married already. On the other hand, unless Lydia was a very, very old woman, then gossip about her and Paul would have undoubtedly circulated the city. A marriage of convenience would certainly have simplified matters.

Cheers,
Peter W. Dunn

From Corpus Paulinum:

This view was ridiculed by Jim Hester 23 Oct, 2000.
Ain’t historical criticism wonderful! With enough digging around and over reading, a wife for Paul can be constructed. Anyone want to argue that Secundus, Tertius and Quartus were his younger siblings?

The discussion continues here

I responded:

The practice of self-control (enkrateia), i.e., sexual continence, in early Christianity and in 1 Corinthians, also affected the marriage relationship. Some (women probably) in Corinth appear to be practising it and leaving their husbands in the cold (7.3). Now perhaps the very dilemma that confronted Paul may have been telling these enkratites that they should not practise enkrateia in their marriages because of it led to immorality (1 Cor 7.3) while he had a wife and lived as though he had none (7.29). When Paul says that he wishes that all were as he is (7.7), why couldn’t he mean that he wishes simply that they could all be enkratites like him, whether in marriage or out? But alas, their behavior in too many cases proved them incapable of it.

Jim Hester continues:

My larger point is that we just don’t have enough unambiguous data from the pauline corpus to say that Paul had been married and that it is a waste of time to fuss with the question!

There were considerable disputes in the early church regarding encratism and spiritual marriage (i.e., marriage without sexual relations). Much of the debate concerned 1 Cor 7. Both Clement of Alexandria and Origen thought that Phil 4.3 referred to Paul’s spouse. Since these two native Greek speakers thought that a natural interpretation, it would seem to me far from a waste of time to consider the possibility, especially as it affects the exegesis of 1 Cor 7. Besides, how often is there unambiguous data for anything discussed on this forum? (Why would we discuss something unambiguous?) I would be interested in knowing what prompted Jim West to bring up the subject–perhaps therein lies the ultimate justification for the discussion.

Jim Hester responded.

David Garland responded.

Robert A. Kraft responded.

Evidence for Paul’s existence

Filed under: St. Paul — Petros @ 9:47 am


From Corpus Paulinum Archives: 29 Sept. 2000 Evidence for Paul:

David Sutherland asks:

Outside the NT, does anyone know of any evidence, or references to, or for the actual existence of Paul?

Furthermore, apparently the Rabbis kept good records of all their students.  There is no mention of any Saul, who supposedly sat at the feat of prominent Rabbi’s?

There is abundant Patristic evidence (passim). There is also the Acts of Paul, which is however dependent partly on Paul’s epistles and partly on oral legend. 3 Corinthians, by the way, is now commonly considered to be earlier than the Acts of Paul and to have been incorporated later into the larger work. There is also the legacy of the Gentile churches that claim Paul as its founding apostle.

F. F. Bruce writes (NT History [1969] p. 237): “It is just possible that Paul’s education under Gamaliel is recalled in a Talmudic reference to an unnamed pupil of that rabbi who exhibited ‘impudence in matters of learning’. [TB Shabbat 30b; cf. J. Klausner, From Jesus to Paul (London, 1944) p. 310]”

Can it really be seriously doubted that Paul existed?

Peter W. Dunn
Concord, Ontario

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