The Apostle Paul - Ugh.

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mom3
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The Apostle Paul - Ugh.

Post by mom3 » 02 Mar 2018, 15:25

I am a New Testament girl, all the way. Especially the four gospels. I love their different takes and insights. I love the front row seat to Christ. (I know they were written after Acts and Pauls letters). The point is when someone says "The Gospel". I really do anchor my connections to those 4 books.

Paul though flumoxes me. I love his words on Charity in Corinthians. I love sections of Romans. But darn it all, Paul ruffles my gospel feathers.

Today I had the honor of being told by an unsuspecting Pastor that his church couldn't serve at an interfaith homeless shelter because Mormons were at it. His specific words were "Unequally yoked to unbelievers." And he said, not only in marriage but in all other forms, too. He didn't know I was LDS. I just happen to be the calendar sign up person of the shelter. He pressed to know what other religions were on the list. Jehovah's Witnesses, etc. His church has served with the shelter for quite a few years, but because the Mormon's sneaked in, then got mentioned in a local newspaper article (not of their promoting) he was enraged.

All I could think of, as he spoke was how Paul sets all Christian Faith's up for this. It irks me to no end. Urgg.
"I stayed because it was God and Jesus Christ that I wanted to follow and be like, not individual human beings." Chieko Okazaki Dialogue interview

"I am coming to envision a new persona for the Church as humble followers of Jesus Christ....Joseph and his early followers came forth with lots of triumphalist rhetoric, but I think we need a new voice, one of humility, friendship and service. We should teach people to believe in God because it will soften their hearts and make them more willing to serve." - Richard Bushman

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SamBee
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Re: The Apostle Paul - Ugh.

Post by SamBee » 02 Mar 2018, 16:04

You're not the first to say this and he has been accused of hijacking Christianity. Sometimes Paul (or whoever the writer was) says things which are beautiful, but other times I would put his words second to the Gospels.

As far as I am concerned there are two tiers in the New Testament:

* the Gospels & Acts
* the letters & Revelation

Within the Gospels I would set the Sermon on the Mount & Jesus' quoted words at the top and the nativity narratives near the bottom. Personally my favorite gospel is John - its main value is that it has a distinct flavor and its own take. The other three are very similar. I know some vouch for Mark because it is to the point.
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Roy
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Re: The Apostle Paul - Ugh.

Post by Roy » 02 Mar 2018, 16:54

As with all scripture, I like to look for the beauty of the ideas being presented. Sometimes there is something that is timeless and inspiring. Other times the concept is earthbound to a limited culture, time, and place. Sometimes there is a mixture of both types of ideas intertwined within the same verse and it is up to me to extricate them.

Paul is a dynamic figure. He inserted himself onto the nascent Christian church and changed the trajectory in significant ways. He became a one man self appointed church expansion force. I'm sure he shared his own ideas, understandings, and biases along with the "good news" on his journeys. Like the LDS Bruce R. McConkie/Mormon Doctrine situation, I am sure that there were some disagreements between Paul and the remainder of the 12. But to publicly censure or oppose him would be sensitive.

Still, it can be frustrating when people use words written so long ago to draw boundaries and be exclusionary.
"It is not so much the pain and suffering of life which crushes the individual as it is its meaninglessness and hopelessness." C. A. Elwood

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DarkJedi
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Re: The Apostle Paul - Ugh.

Post by DarkJedi » 02 Mar 2018, 17:57

Roy wrote:
02 Mar 2018, 16:54
Like the LDS Bruce R. McConkie/Mormon Doctrine situation, I am sure that there were some disagreements between Paul and the remainder of the 12. But to publicly censure or oppose him would be sensitive.
Actually there was a very public dispute between Paul and Peter. See Galatians 2.

The point of a different time and culture are very well taken. I think we (not just Mormons) tend to try to frame things that happened 2000 (or sometimes many more) years ago in a far off place in 2018 terms or through a 2018 lens. It just can't be done. As you said some things are timeless (love your neighbor, for example) others (eating with uncircumcised) are not.
In the absence of knowledge or faith there is always hope.

Once there was a gentile...who came before Hillel. He said "Convert me on the condition that you teach me the whole Torah while I stand on one foot." Hillel converted him, saying: That which is despicable to you, do not do to your fellow, this is the whole Torah, and the rest is commentary, go and learn it."

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mom3
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Re: The Apostle Paul - Ugh.

Post by mom3 » 03 Mar 2018, 00:34

One of the ironies about Paul is that he was just an apostle/missionary. Peter was head of the church. We only have a couple of books by or about him. Paul has 2/3 of the New Testament.

When I told my husband about the conversation with the "Christian" - he said he believes it's conversations and assertions like "not being yoked to unbelievers" that drives more atheism. He wagers more "unbelievers" might end up more agnostic if it wasn't for some of the religious rhetoric and believer bias that gets thrown around. - He went from TBM to highly agnostic/atheistic.

The other ironies is that Christians' seem to spend more time being Paulines' then Christians. Christ crossed every boundary imaginable. Touched, dined with, spoke with, sought out, healed, uplifted, forgave, entertained everyone. Believer or not. Yet many of us who claim ourselves Christian or Disciple's live by Paul's admonition "from such turn away." Then we proudly make a list of who the such are (types of people, etc.)
"I stayed because it was God and Jesus Christ that I wanted to follow and be like, not individual human beings." Chieko Okazaki Dialogue interview

"I am coming to envision a new persona for the Church as humble followers of Jesus Christ....Joseph and his early followers came forth with lots of triumphalist rhetoric, but I think we need a new voice, one of humility, friendship and service. We should teach people to believe in God because it will soften their hearts and make them more willing to serve." - Richard Bushman

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DarkJedi
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Re: The Apostle Paul - Ugh.

Post by DarkJedi » 03 Mar 2018, 05:34

I think it's also worth noting that Paul was a Pharisee. In my own mind that makes me think he liked rules. He's also in my mind very much like Joseph Smith - some things I like and others are "Where the heck did that come from?"
In the absence of knowledge or faith there is always hope.

Once there was a gentile...who came before Hillel. He said "Convert me on the condition that you teach me the whole Torah while I stand on one foot." Hillel converted him, saying: That which is despicable to you, do not do to your fellow, this is the whole Torah, and the rest is commentary, go and learn it."

My Introduction

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DevilsAdvocate
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Re: The Apostle Paul - Ugh.

Post by DevilsAdvocate » 03 Mar 2018, 11:47

mom3 wrote:
02 Mar 2018, 15:25
Paul though flumoxes me. I love his words on Charity in Corinthians. I love sections of Romans. But darn it all, Paul ruffles my gospel feathers...Today I had the honor of being told by an unsuspecting Pastor that his church couldn't serve at an interfaith homeless shelter because Mormons were at it. His specific words were "Unequally yoked to unbelievers." And he said, not only in marriage but in all other forms, too. He didn't know I was LDS. I just happen to be the calendar sign up person of the shelter. He pressed to know what other religions were on the list. Jehovah's Witnesses, etc. His church has served with the shelter for quite a few years, but because the Mormon's sneaked in, then got mentioned in a local newspaper article (not of their promoting) he was enraged...All I could think of, as he spoke was how Paul sets all Christian Faith's up for this...
I definitely don't agree with everything Paul or even Jesus reportedly said if taken literally but in this case I think this pastor was just looking for an excuse to act in an ignorant and intolerant way toward Mormons (that he already didn't like for whatever reasons) so then he cherry-picked this one verse out of context and tried to interpret it in the worst possible way to try to justify his questionable position. If you read the whole chapter it sounds like Paul was really trying to say something to the effect that if unbelievers (specifically pagans in this case) expect you to practice their beliefs and values that directly conflict with your own (idolatry in this case) then don't let them pressure you into it, not that they should be completely shunned and avoided altogether.

I don't see how simply working together with "unbelievers" at a homeless shelter is anything like "unequally yoked" oxen because it doesn't prevent the believers from completing their intended "Christian" life goals in any way. How many of this pastors' flock work with Mormons, non-religious people, etc. in their everyday jobs and how is that any different from working together at a homeless shelter? The main difference I see is simply that it is much easier to make a big stink about Mormons in a self-righteous way when it is some part-time volunteer work like this but it would be practically impossible for many self-proclaimed Christians to really take this pastor's suggested course of action to its logical conclusion nowadays in every case unless they live in some kind of commune. And what about Jesus himself being criticized for eating and associating with supposed "sinners" by the Pharisees?
"Truth is what works." - William James

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dande48
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Re: The Apostle Paul - Ugh.

Post by dande48 » 03 Mar 2018, 15:16

Paul did go explicitly against the Church's council, which always suprised me. When the Church first met together to discuss the fact that Christian male converts weren't particularly thrilled to be circumsized, the apostles gathered together to dicuss specificially what rules in the Mosaic law the Roman converts had to follow. In Acts 15, they clearly lined out which parts the gentiles needed to follow. In particular, don't eat food sacrificed to idols, and don't eat meat strangled from animals.

Paul didn't particularly like that, so he told the gentile converts to "Eat whatever is sold in the marketplace" (1Cor 10). The Apostles, needless to say, were not pleased by Paul's decision. They took him aside and reprimanded him in Acts 21.

Point is, not everything taught by Paul in the bible is the word of God. Even in its infancy, there were disagreements on points of doctrine, with opposing views ending up in the bible. The one thing that really bothers me, not only in the LDS faith but in Christinaity in general, is the HUGE emphasis on the importance of "Correctness of Belief". In the Church, it feels like it's much more important to believe the right thing, than to live a virtuous life. The sinners who believe will be saved, but the righteous who don't believe will be damned. Christianity, I'd say as a whole, is the LEAST tolerant of other religions, out of every religions on the face of the earth; even amongst other Christinans. Which is a pity, since there is so much good that can be taken from Christiandom.
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On Own Now
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Re: The Apostle Paul - Ugh.

Post by On Own Now » 04 Mar 2018, 14:46

mom3,

Let me set your mind at ease regarding Paul. This will be a long post, but stick with it and I'll show you that Paul is a hugely misrepresented figure. He was very progressive in his era, so much so that his thoughts and words needed to be tempered by later more-conservative stakeholders. Paul was a champion of women in a time when women were more or less irrelevant (in Rome, a woman could not own property. If a female child was born, it was often put to death immediately). Paul taught that women were no different from men in a family-of-God construct.

Paul is painted today as austere, against women, for slavery, uncaring, never smiling. These are wrong. Paul, IMO, was the most like the people here at StayLDS of any person represented in the NT.

Here's what you need to know:

Paul didn't write I or II Timothy, Titus, Hebrews, II Thessalonians, and probably did not write Colossians or Ephesians. So, right off the bat, don't hold anything in those books against Paul (for example, I Timothy 2:12 (NIV): "I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man; she must be quiet.")

Acts can't be viewed as an accurate biography of Paul, since many of "Paul's" teachings in Acts contradict what he, himself said. I view Acts as a biographical outline based loosely on Paul's actual life.

We have just seven letters that scholars believe came from Paul, and these are the oldest works in the NT: Romans, I and II Corinthians, Galatians, Philippians, I Thessalonians, and Philemon.

On top of that, there are several passages that probably didn't originate with Paul but found their way into the authentic letters listed above.

For example, Paul talked openly about women praying and prophesying in church in I Corinthians. Further on he talked about showing some restraint when it comes to going on and on with prophecies. Later authorities, who apparently didn't like that Paul was so progressive, used this passage as an opportunity to insert a restraint on women, saying, "Women should be silent in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but should be subordinate, as the law also says. If there is anything they desire to know, let them ask their husbands at home. For it is shameful for a woman to speak in church." (I Cor 14:34-35 NRSV). It is universally accepted by scholars that this is a non-pauline addition.

And when we get to "unequally yoked", it turns out that that, too, seems to be a later addition. Here's what the New Oxford Annotated Bible, third ed says about it: "6:14-7:1: An abrupt interruption of Paul's appeal in the present context, since 7:2-4 more naturally follows 6:11-13. This passage contains many words used nowhere else by Paul; the stark dualism is also uncharacteristic of him." A book I have called "The Authentic Letters of Paul" by Dewey, Hoover, McGaughy, and Schmidt moves this section out of I Corinthians.

Additionally, the passage contradicts something that Paul said to believers married to unbelievers, and this is the real voice of Paul (I Corinthians 7:12-16 NRSV): "To the rest I say—I and not the Lord—that if any believer has a wife who is an unbeliever, and she consents to live with him, he should not divorce her. And if any woman has a husband who is an unbeliever, and he consents to live with her, she should not divorce him. For the unbelieving husband is made holy through his wife, and the unbelieving wife is made holy through her husband. Otherwise, your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy. But if the unbelieving partner separates, let it be so; in such a case the brother or sister is not bound. It is to peace that God has called you. Wife, for all you know, you might save your husband. Husband, for all you know, you might save your wife."

Paul was a social and spiritual revolutionary who was a champion for little guy (or gal) in the face of the Roman Empire's quest to aggrandize the powerful.

I, too, love the Gospels (esp Mark). But I've come to love the real words of Paul as well. If I could give you some pointers to some great passages to get to know the real Paul (what some scholars have called the First Paul), I'd point you toward the following, but suggest reading these in the NRSV or NIV:

I Thessalonians - this is the oldest book in the NT and the first witness that we have of Christianity. It is basically a love letter between Paul and the Saints in Thessalonica.

Romans chapter 8 - "Life in Christ Jesus has set you free"

Romans 14 - admonition to get along and not judge each other for differences of opinion on spiritual matters.

Philemon - Paul returns the slave Onesimus to Philemon, but pleads with Philemon to accept him no longer as a slave, but as a brother. This book has been used to justify slavery, but we must recognize that in Paul's time, there simply were slaves. They made up a low caste in society. The fact was inextricable from everyday life. Apparently, Philemon (a Christian) has become annoyed that his slave Onesimus (a Christian) has stayed longer with Paul (a Christian) than he should. Paul writes this letter to accompany the slave's return. Watch for Paul's play on words in this brief but beautiful plea. Onesimus literally means "useful".
"Let us therefore no longer pass judgment on one another, but resolve instead never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of another." --Romans 14:13

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DarkJedi
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Re: The Apostle Paul - Ugh.

Post by DarkJedi » 04 Mar 2018, 15:40

Thanks OON. I too use the Oxford Annotated Study Bible and I really like it. I have not been through the epistles yet, however (I've done the gospels, Acts, and some OT stuff including Isaiah). I appreciate the insights into Paul and agree that Paul was more like us (or perhaps Uchtdorf) than the other apostles.

The other part of Mom's frustration deals with what I see as a somewhat antiquated view of Mormons. Yeah I know the Romney heyday didn't fix everything but in general I think there's much less "anti" stuff coming from other Protestants and Catholics than there was 20 or 30 years ago. That's partly because there are more of us and partly because their pastors have been enlightened. The exception is the evangelicals, which interestingly enough I think we have the most in common with. This especially surprises me in Mom's area where the wards/stakes seem to be very active in the community. Seriously, I am on the stake Just Serve committee here and it is literally like pulling teeth to get some of the people to look outside the church and even make contact with community groups. I've even had members tell me to my face that we have enough to do serving our own - which may be true but it's not the point.

I have been reading The Christ Who Heals and I love it so far. I might start a thread down in the book section. We have so much more in common with our Christian brothers and sisters than either of us recognize.
In the absence of knowledge or faith there is always hope.

Once there was a gentile...who came before Hillel. He said "Convert me on the condition that you teach me the whole Torah while I stand on one foot." Hillel converted him, saying: That which is despicable to you, do not do to your fellow, this is the whole Torah, and the rest is commentary, go and learn it."

My Introduction

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