Can Christianity work without Paul? (Index)


This is an index for the various posts (mostly not written yet) answering the question of Christianity’s viability without Paul.  What I mean by that is that whenever anyone suggests that Paul is a false apostle or that he can or should be rejected by Christians, the “orthodox” get up in arms suggesting various things about Christianity that will fall apart without the uber-apostle Paul.  The posts in this series show that these are just strawman arguments that orthodox Paulinism makes against Jesus himself.

  1. Would we know about “grace” without Paul?
  2. Would we know Gentiles don’t need to be circumcised to be saved without Paul?
  3. Without Paul would we know how to run a church? aka: Jesus’ “you have one master, even Christ, and you are all brethren” vs Paul’s “obey your rulers/leaders” and “submit” type rhetoric
  4. Does Jesus teach that we are his body?
  5. God’s finite Law of actual commandments or Paul’s infinite thought-crime legislation?

If you have a challenge, “without Paul we wouldn’t know…” let me know, and I’ll make an article on it. For now, I think the two I have cover basically everything other than church governance, but most Protestant churches already ignore Paul’s rules for that in the Pastorals, and the Catholic church certainly does!

“Trees didn’t exist back then”

I overheard someone today saying that Genesis 3 can’t be literal because trees didn’t exist back then.  “Trees,” he said, “are a relatively recent development on this planet. They only evolved 50,000 years ago.”   I wasn’t aware that 50,000 years ago was relatively recent. Nor did I realize that the Bible placed the story of Adam and Eve further back than 50,000 years ago; silly me, I thought if you added up all the genealogies and historical clues you found that the Bible sets that story only about 6,000 years ago.  But I guess I got schooled today.

I’m amazed how stupid people are.  Why would anyone buy a moronic idea that trees evolved 50,000 years ago?  Ignore the question of the age of the earth for a moment.  Let’s pretend the earth really is 50 kajillion trillion million floptillian years old.  And let’s assume that the evolution fairy-tale is true too.  Even with those two lies granted, how would scientists know when trees evolved?  What’s the evidence?  This guy was mocking his mother for believing in the story of Adam and Eve, saying he was amazed how stupid she is, but the joke’s on him, because he sounds like an idiot.

Now, I may be a bit paradoxical on this myself because I believe in the literal creation story and the literal creation of an Adam and Eve, but not in the literal fall narrative.  I take the talking snake to be a clue that this is an allegory about obeying God or suffering the consequences.  That’s actually a position that was a long time in the making, and I’m not going to get into how I came to that conclusion.  But suffice* it to say, taking that part of the story to be allegory due to the talking snake and the mystical fruit is not completely absurd like saying “Trees didn’t exist then.”   If you don’t believe that trees existed then, then I don’t believe that your brain exists now.

Now the theory that Paul’s epistles are the first Christian documents, predating the gospels, is akin to believing that trees didn’t exist back then.  You’re telling me that Paul was the first Christian writer, yet he has such an uphill battle against a pre-existing doctrine that is contrary to his faith alonism?  A doctrine clearly taught in Matthew. But nah, Matthew didn’t exist yet.  Paul is fighting phantoms, not real people, not pre-existing documents.  Give me a break.  I guess papyrus didn’t exist prior to Paul, right?  Lol.

[* Also Jesus doesn't base theology on the "fall" narrative. And if death didn't exist and we were all immortal like people who take the "fall" literally think would be the case if there had been no "fall," we'd all be stacked on top of each other living in each others' feces by now. Only way around that would be an ever-expanding earth, and the earth doesn't work like that, although heaven might.  Its obvious then that death isn't really something imposed for the "fall" but something that God always intended to be part of the world. Wait...wasn't there a guy in antiquity who said basically this (even if Adam hadn't eaten the fruit he would have died), and got in trouble for it...oh yeah, Pelagius. Or was it actually Coeletius who said it, and Pelagius just gets blamed for it?  Actually, I think that's it.]

N.T. Wright – After you Believe: Why Christian Character Matters

I don’t actually have anything to say on this video yet. Its almost 45 minutes long and I’ve only got to about the 14 minute mark as of yet. I guess I’ll watch the rest at some point this week. When I finish it, I might have something to say. (Well, there’s my comment on the video there at youtube, but that’s just a response to someone I presume is a Calvinist who attacks NT Wright simply for saying that Christian character matters.) The title of the video is interesting: After you Believe: Why Christian Character Matters.  Sounds promising, depending on where he goes with it.

Ok, I’m at about the 28 minute mark and he said something that really tickled me. Tehe.

He does his Paulinist disclaimer around the 34 minute mark, although he undermines it right afterwards in his sneaky way.

36 minutes: “All the fruit of the spirit is easily counterfeited in happy healthy young people, except self-control.”  Its an interesting statement.  Yet, can anyone truly be happy without self-control?  Not for long.  Same goes for health too, ultimately.

Maybe something to discuss is who did the better job on promoting Christian character, Tom Wright, or Bizzle? Lol.

Krister Stendahl: accidentally shows how Paul leads to subjectivism

Paul was a great theologian. A theologian is someone who sees problems where nobody else sees problems, and who sees no problems where everyone else sees problems.

An interesting video of a Krister Stendahl Lecture being read by his son.  Krister Stendahl was, according to Wikipedia’s article on the New Perspective on Paul, one of the guys who got the “New Perspective” going.

HarvardX – Letters of Paul, Krister Stendahl Lecture

Something that emerges in this video is that keeping Paul but minimizing his doctrine (and everyone who keeps him must minimize some of his doctrine since he is so contradictory) ultimately leads to a sort of subjectivism: “Christianity is true for me, but not for everyone.”  It becomes clear, therefore, that a rejection of Paul is essential for Christianity to maintain itself (or rather, Jesus) as the truth, not just “a truth.”

Did Origen say that Paul’s epistles are not properly Scripture? and where?

I was searching google for “primacy of the four gospels” to see what I could find. And I chanced upon the following from here:

Section 4, “The Study of the Gospels is the First Fruits Offered by These Priests of Christianity.” The primacy of the four Gospels as the “first fruits of the Scriptures.” Origen clarifies that in one sense the epistles of the NT are not properly called “Scripture,” since when Paul says things like, “I say, and not the Lord” and “so I ordain in all the churches,” etc. Also when Paul says “Every Scripture is inspired and profitable by God” he is probably not referring to his own writings. The four Gospels are the first fruits of the Scriptures for Origen in that they are the first which are offered to God, after the whole has become ripe.

I wish I knew what writing of Origen was being referred to.  But, even if I did, its probably one that still languishes in Greek or Latin.  Since both Catholics and Protestants consider Origen to have been heretical on certain points, a lot of his writings haven’t been translated into English.  If anyone is familiar with where Origen says that the epistles are not properly Scripture, please shoot me a line.

Ok, I found it actually.  That site did say it was from Origen’s commentary on John. I just missed that.  So here it is, from Origin’s Commentary on John, Book I, Chapter 4:

Now our whole activity is devoted to God, and our whole life, since we are bent on progress in divine things. If, then, it be our desire to have the whole of those first fruits spoken of above which are made up of the many first fruits, if we are not mistaken in this view, in what must our first fruits consist, after the bodily separation we have undergone from each other, but in the study of the Gospel? For we may venture to say that the Gospel is the first fruits of all the Scriptures. Where, then, could be the first fruits of our activity, since the time when we came to Alexandria, but in the first fruits of the Scriptures? It must not be forgotten, however, that the first fruits are not the same as the first growth. For the first fruits are offered after all the fruits (are ripe), but the first growth before them all. Now of the Scriptures which are current and are believed to be divine in all the churches, one would not be wrong in saying that the first growth is the law of Moses, but the first fruits the Gospel. For it was after all the fruits of the prophets who prophesied till the Lord Jesus, that the perfect word shot forth.

And then chapter 5 of the same:

Here, however, some one may object, appealing to the notion just put forward of the unfolding of the first fruits last, and may say that the Acts and the letters of the Apostles came after the Gospels, and that this destroys our argument to the effect that the Gospel is the first fruits of all Scripture. To this we must reply that it is the conviction of men who are wise in Christ, who have profited by those epistles which are current, and who see them to be vouched for by the testimonies deposited in the law and the prophets, that the apostolic writings are to be pronounced wise and worthy of belief, and that they have great authority, but that they are not on the same level with that “Thus says the Lord Almighty.”  Consider on this point the language of St. Paul. When he declares that 2 Timothy 3:16 “Every Scripture is inspired of God and profitable,” does he include his own writings? Or does he not include his dictum, 1 Corinthians 7:12 “I say, and not the Lord,” and 1 Corinthians 7:17 “So I ordain in all the churches,” and 2 Timothy 3:11 “What things I suffered at Antioch, at Iconium, at Lystra,” and similar things which he writes in virtue of his own authority, and which do not quite possess the character of words flowing from divine inspiration. Must we also show that the old Scripture is not Gospel, since it does not point out the Coming One, but only foretells Him and heralds His coming at a future time; but that all the new Scripture is the Gospel. It not only says as in the beginning of the Gospel, John 1:29 “Behold the Lamb of God, which takes away the sin of the world;” it also contains many praises of Him, and many of His teachings, on whose account the Gospel is a Gospel. Again, if God set in the Church Ephesians 4:11 apostles and prophets and evangelists (gospellers), pastors and teachers, we must first enquire what was the office of the evangelist, and mark that it is not only to narrate how the Saviour cured a man who was blind from his birth, John 9:1 or raised up a dead man who was already stinking, John 11:39 or to state what extraordinary works he wrought; and the office of the evangelist being thus defined, we shall not hesitate to find Gospel in such discourse also as is not narrative but hortatory and intended to strengthen belief in the mission of Jesus; and thus we shall arrive at the position that whatever was written by the Apostles is Gospel. As to this second definition, it might be objected that the Epistles are not entitled “Gospel,” and that we are wrong in applying the name of Gospel to the whole of the New Testament. But to this we answer that it happens not unfrequently in Scripture when two or more persons or things are named by the same name, the name attaches itself most significantly to one of those things or persons. Thus the Saviour says, Matthew 23:8-9 “Call no man Master upon the earth;” while the Apostle says that Masters have been appointed in the Church. These latter accordingly will not be Masters in the strict sense of the dictum of the Gospel. In the same way the Gospel in the Epistles will not extend to every word of them, when it is compared with the narrative of Jesus’ actions and sufferings and discourses. No: the Gospel is the first fruits of all Scripture, and to these first fruits of the Scriptures we devote the first fruits of all those actions of ours which we trust to see turn out as we desire.

The word “justification” is a problem

I don’t know how to put this that won’t scandalize those who still accept Paul as an apostle.  And I need help with my presentation to be sure.  But here it goes:

The was a post recently on Paul’s Passing Thoughts (Why Young People Leave Church) and another on Spiritual Sounding Board (Why Don’t Young People go to Church?) basically on the same topic, as you can see by the titles.

Paul D’s conclusion is that “ALL spiritual abuse, I repeat, ALL spiritual abuse flows from the presuppositions of the church’s institutional gospel of perpetual justification.”

He’s right in a way. He’s wrong in a way.  I’m fairly young, early 30s. So let me answer this from my perspective.

Church is typically a brainwashing session in the misosophy which says actions don’t matter. Well, if you already agree with that misosophy, then going to church doesn’t matter because its an action or work.  If you don’t agree with that misosophy then you don’t want to hear some mystic get up and rant and rave about how great that misosophy is.  So people who don’t buy into faith alone ain’t gonna go to church; and people who do buy into it have no reason to go.

Just for the record, I do go to church now, but I was out for 4 years. And it was precisely because of this misosophy of faith vs works. I was tired of hearing it. Faith is not opposed to obeying the one you claim to have faith in, and if you say that it is opposed, then you don’t really have faith. Thank God not every congregation in my denomination buys into this misosophy. Otherwise, I’d still be gone. Unfortunately for most of you, every congregation in yours probably does.

I’m still convinced the very term ‘justification’ is the problem. Paul is like foreign gibberish to me. As far as this terminology goes, I was raised on the idea of becoming a Christian, not of getting justified. You become a Christian by believing, repenting, confessing your belief, and being baptized. And then, you’re a Christian from then on out. Even if you leave, you can come back without having to go through the same again: you just have to repent and confess. Not this time confess your belief as if you’ve never believed before but confess that you screwed up royally in leaving the Lord. In this scenario, what is ‘justification’? Its becoming a Christian. Well, why don’t we just call it that then? (Actually, some of us do, but why doesn’t everyone?)

N.T. Wright has kind of seen the problem here and he’s redefined ‘justification’ from meaning that you’re ‘declared righteous’ with some bogus forensic righteousness to meaning rather that you’re ‘declared to be IN’ i.e. to have become a Christian. Yet that doesn’t fix the whole problem, because as long as you’re still using the term ‘justification’ and as long as you say its by ‘faith alone’ you’re wrong. Ain’t nobody a Christian by faith alone, because Jesus said “Make disciples of all nations, baptizing them…” And repentance is a prerequisite to baptism (Acts 2:38) as is belief (Mark 16:16) and confession of faith (Acts 8:37). So ain’t nobody a Christians without faith, repentance from sins, confession of faith, and baptism. So, at the most fundamental and basic level Paul was just wrong: (1) ‘justification’ is the wrong word to use, and (2) it ain’t by faith alone. (3) making it by faith alone makes it perpetually sought rather than a one-time thing, because for something to be one-time, it needs a sealing act: Hence baptism.

So, I left for a time…and I did it because I got sick of hearing about faith vs works. When I came back I moved to a congregation that doesn’t focus on Paul’s leftist lies. Faith is not opposed to works, unless by works we mean actual sins. Faith certainly is not opposed to obedience to the one you have faith in, and anyone who says so (even Paul) is a lunatic. Now is faith required to become a Christian? Yes. Are works required to become a Christian? Only repentance, confession, and baptism. Not circumcision, Sabbath keeping, giving money to charity, building a new hospital, whatever else. Paul ruined the church by coming up with a false dichotomy that enemies of Christ use against the actual means to becoming a Christian. Maybe all Paul meant by works was as E.P. Sanders thought “the tokens of national belonging” as in circumcision, etc. Or maybe Paul was a full-on Gnostic. Doesn’t matter. He was wrong, and that’s what’s wrong with “church.”

Anyone have a better way to explain that “justification” is the wrong word?

By the way, while writing this I was also listening to Paul Dohse’s Gnostic Watch Weekly Program 11:

If you watch this you’ll be thoroughly confused on how law vs grace works in Paul, as you should be, since Paul didn’t know what he meant by it either!  Dohse doesn’t do any worse than anyone else in trying to systematize and understand this incomprehensible Gnostic nonsense in Paul.  But Paul Dohse does make one very positive contribution to my way of thinking here: he coins the term “academiacs” to refer to John Piper and all the rest of the Calvinist academic theologians.  Now I have a new term by which to call Paul, since Paul is obviously in the same category as these guys:  Paul the academiac “apostle.”  I love that alliteration!

[By the way, I know some might be confused by two Pauls being mentioned.  When I say just "Paul" without a D afterwards, I always mean Paul the so-called "apostle" and supposed author of Romans and Galatians. My criticism of Paul D is limited to his hanging on to Paul despite seeing how Gnostic all the fruit from Paul is. But at least he's trying to figure out the truth! Unlike Piper et al. who just purposefully teach the Pauline lies for money and fame. Everyone has to go through a period of trying to save Paul from Paul, trying to make Paul work via re-translation etc. I certainly went through that, for probably 10 years, before I finally realized it was hopeless and that Paul simply is wrong.]

God’s finite Law of actual commandments or Paul’s infinite thought-crime legislation?

Paul D has a new post up on Paul’s Passing Thoughts called Romans 13:14B; Part 1, “Overcoming Sin and Living Righteously, a Righteous Life of Real and Lasting Change”

Having just read it, I zeroed in on this paragraph which he placed at the head of the post in bold, but which is also repeated in the article:

I only have ONE comment concerning all of the drama that is part and parcel with the institutional church: ‘under law.’ That’s it. To be under law is to be cut off from bearing fruit for God. To be under law is to be cut off from its life and love.

Now I posted a comment, saying the following:

They’re not under the [ceremonial side of the] Torah, because Gentiles never were.  So what “law” are they under?  Their own invented emotional-crime and thought-crime legislation.  Because you’ll notice whenever they list off sins, its always emotional or thought-crime sins…sins that the Torah never condemned because they’re not sins but either simply human emotions or temptations that will lead to sin if you give in to them.  You’ll never find them listing adultery, drunkeness, fornication…no real sins.

To them getting angry, or being sad, or wishing you had more money are sins.  Well no wonder they always feel condemned!!!!!

The Torah, what part of it always applied to Gentiles, i.e. the moral side, cannot condemn me.  Because I’m not murdering, raping, stealing, committing adultery, fornication, etc.   So being under the moral Law of the Torah is not going to hinder my bearing fruit.  Its the Pauline thought-crime law that hinders you bearing fruit; let’s be honest, Paul invented his own law of thought-crime legislation and then acted like the Torah taught it, and attacked the Torah as teaching what in fact does not come from it but from his own made-up law.  That’s where Protestants go wrong; they are under Paul’s law, not God’s.

Now, I want to unpack this a little bit more.  Is Paul really responsible for the Protestant thought-crime legislation or did Catholic and Protestant theologians invent that later?

Well, look at Paul’s “ode to love” in 1st Corinthians 13.  We discussed this in the comments on another post here a few days back, but let’s look at it again.

1st Corinthians 13:4-8a (NIV):

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails….

So, if you ever dishonor someone (even if they are a criminal or very guilty of horrible things) then you don’t love…according to Paul.  Or if you keep a record of wrongs, like to say this person turned on me 10 times so I’m not trusting them again like an idiot…then you don’t love.  Or, if you are ever proud of an accomplishment…then you don’t love.

Now is that what Paul means or is it Protestant misinterpretation?  Because we know this is how their pastors preach it!  Either way, either he meant it, or he wrote incautiously in a way that results in that.

So what Paul has basically done is replace actual rules like “thou shalt not kill, thou shalt not steal, thou shalt not bear false witness, thou shalt not commit adultery, etc. etc.” with an impossible standard of love that is thought-crime legislation.  If you don’t meet this standard perfectly, then under Paul’s Law, you will constantly have a cloud of guilt hanging over you.

“Oh no, I dishonored that rapist by telling him he’s scum…..I don’t love. I must not really be saved.”

That’s exactly where this doctrine ends up.

Or here, a personal “favorite”:

 Let your speech be always with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man. (Colossians 4:6)

So, if somebody comes at me with Calvinism and I say “That’s just stupid. Only a complete idiot would believe that, or a devil worshiper, because denying free will makes God out to be the author of evil and more foul than Satan,” is that a sin?  According to Paul’s infinite thought-crime legislation, it is.  But that would make Jesus a sinner since he calls the Pharisees “vipers” and Herod (the king!) a “fox”!

Remember, also Paul’s interpretation is that you can’t insult a ruler in any way. In Acts 23 when he rebuked the high priest for punching him in the face in a manner contrary to the law, Paul is then informed that this was the high priest, what does he say?

I wist not, brethren, that he was the high priest: for it is written, Thou shalt not speak evil of the ruler of thy people.

So, the scripture (which properly translated, by the way, says) “thou shalt not curse a ruler of thy people” according to Paul means that you can’t even rebuke them when they break the law!!!!!!  Was John the Baptist speaking evil of the ruler of the people when he told Herod it was unlawful for him to have his brother’s wife??? Absurd!  You see how Paul overturns the law itself to replace it with infinite thought-crime legislation.

We don’t have to always speak in a politically correct manner as Christians, like Paul and his disciples teach, because Jesus himself didn’t always do so.  In fact, when did he do so?

So its not the Torah, the moral law from the Torah that’s the problem, but Paul’s rejection of it for an infinite thought-crime legislation of his own making.

Now, in Acts 15:10, speaking of the ceremonial law, Peter says:

10 Now therefore why tempt ye God, to put a yoke upon the neck of the disciples, which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear?

They were able to bear the moral law!  In fact, this very council in Acts 15 sends letters to the Gentile churches telling them that although they don’t have to be circumcised they do have to “avoid fornication”!!!!

What Paul does, it seems to me, is toss aside the actual moral law that prohibits actives of an evil nature, and replace it with a prohibition on emotions and thought.  With respect to actives he goes so far as to say “all things are lawful”:

Right after speaking in 1st Corinthians 6:9-10 about

fornicators, idolaters, adulterers, effeminates, abusers of themselves with mankind, thieves, covetous, drunkards, revilers, extortioners

he says in verse 12:

 All things are lawful unto me, but all things are not expedient

So Paul point blank allows anything the law forbids!  Idolatry, extortion, adultery, etc.  He allows any activity that is evil.  But oh boy, you best not think a thought he doesn’t like or say a harsh word to anyone!!!!!!!

So why are people still following this guy????

In short, to put this simply: If I commit an actual sin, I will repent and confess it. But if I commit one of Paul’s made up sins, I’m not going to feel guilty at all about that.

Does Jesus teach that we are his body?

Argo of the blog unreformingtheology has put out a post called Part Eight of: Collectivist Philosophy Masquerading as the Christian Orthodox Ideal. (There is some profanity in his post, BTW.)

He’s been harping on this point for 8 posts from his (somewhat strange) philosophical position.  His point being that modern Christianity makes the collective (the institutional church) the only thing important and the individual of no value whatsoever, and that this should not be the case.  But let’s dispense with philosophy and approach it purely from the perspective of a disciple of Christ but not of Paul. Let’s approach it from the perspective of the four gospels.

Ultimately, like pretty much everything else, this problem goes back to Jesus vs Paul because collectivism comes from Paul’s doctrine that we are the body of Christ.  Paul says we are all “members of the body”—or for a more modern phrase “cogs in the machine.”  We don’t exist as full people: we’re just a hand, a foot, an eye, or a nose. 

Now did Jesus ever teach that? No.  Of course not.  Let that truth soak in for a minute.

To Jesus, Jesus’ body was, well, his actual body.  But Paul, who barely thinks of Jesus in historical terms as an actual man, and who makes Christ a mystical/mythical figure, Christ has no body but us, as that modern poem says “Christ has no hands but your hands,” etc.  Because Paul and his followers don’t seem to believe Jesus was real; they’re functional Docetists if not outright Docetists. And their Docetism extends beyond disbelieving that Jesus has a real body of flesh and blood, to disbelieving that we are real (essentially).

Paul makes the argument (as anyone who has ever studied the Lord’s Supper as it is taught in Paul will know) that when we partake of the bread “we being many are that one bread, for we are all one body.” (That was from memory, and I accidentally combined Romans 12:5 and 1st Corinthians 10:17, but that sums up Paul’s thought on this point.)

Well, Paul, that’s not true.  We are not the body and our eating from that one bread does not represent us being the body.  It represents us partaking in the benefits that come from Jesus having given his body (his actual flesh and blood body) for us on the cross.  But it doesn’t mean we are the body.  Jesus’ physical body is his body; we are not. And Jesus views us not merely as a collective, as a “body,” but as individuals, as is so obvious from everything he says in the gospels.

To Paul, salvation is a corporate affair.

For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body. (Ephesians 5:23)

We’re a toenail or hair follicle or whatever, and Christ, who is only the head of his body, saves us along with all the other non-sentient body parts, according to Paul.  So salvation = being in the body.  This isn’t how Jesus puts it.  Its always on an individual level in the gospels.

Without Paul would we know how to run a church?

The original title to this post was going to be:

Jesus’ “you have one master, even Christ, and you are all brethren” vs Paul’s “obey your rulers/leaders” and “submit” type rhetoric

But that doesn’t work very well as a URL, so you now have the title above.

When I started to write an article on this subject, I did a google search, and I found a book on google books called Religious equality, a sermon preached at Bridport, December 23, 1838 — By Philip Harwood.  I figured I could save myself some time just quoting it and making a comment at the end. I’m going to reproduce some of it here (ending the quote before he becomes hypocritical, since being a partial Paulinist himself, that’s inevitable):


Matthew xxiii. 8—10. Be not ye called Rabbi: for one is your Master, even Christ; and all ye are brethren. And call no man your father upon the earth: for one is your Father, who is in heaven. Neither be ye called masters: for one is your Master, even Christ.

Such is Christ’s charter of his Church’s liberties. Such is Christ’s constitution for his kingdom of heaven upon earth :—Freedom, Equality, Brotherhood: the equal brotherhood of a common spiritual nature, common rights, common duties, common hopes, common relations to one Father, even God, and one Master, even Christ; a brotherhood that admits, indeed, of distinctions—distinctions of elder and younger, teacher and taught, giver and receiver—but not of any such distinction as imports command on the one side and obedience on the other. In Christ’s kingdom, all are brethren; fellow-heirs and fellow-servants: and no man can judge his fellow-servant—he may help him, advise him, teach him, but not command, not judge him—for the very reason that he is a fellow-servant, and has his own master to whom he standeth or falleth.

None may claim lordship over a brother’s faith and conscience, none may submit to such lordship, if claimed. The spiritual arrogance of the few, and the spiritual abjectness of the many—each is a violation of Christ’s law of liberty, and each has its own separate and solemn rebuke, in this, the last sermon of the Christian’s Lord. “Be not ye called Rabbi: for one is your Master, even Christ; and all ye are brethren: and call no man your father upon the earth; for one is your Father, who is in heaven: neither be ye called masters; for one is your Master, even Christ.”

One is almost tempted to exclaim—as did a good man of former times, on reading those commandments with promise which so beautifully introduce the Sermon on the Mount— “Blessed Jesus! either these are not thy words, or we are not Christians.”—Where is this Gospel preached? or, if preached, where is it understood and practised? Where shall we find this liberty? this abstinence from assumption and encroachment? What Christian church practically grants it, even to its own members? even to its own ministers? to say nothing of the yet harder and rarer virtue of granting it to other churches. Where and when have the teachers of Christianity rebuked the superstitious folly that would bow down and worship them, and taken pains to enlighten the ignorance that caused the folly, and declined the perilous investiture with immunities, titles and prerogatives that make distinctions where Christ made none, and repelled the ascription of an ex-officio sanctity, and lived with the taught as brothers with brothers? And where and when have the taught looked upon their teachers, simply as brethren?—better skilled, perhaps, than themselves, by education and study, in the learning illustrative of the records of the faith common to all, (or of course they would not be fit to teach,)—better qualified to set forth that faith in an attractive and convincing form,—elder brethren, perhaps,—but still brethren, men of like parts and passions with themselves, men who have no royal or priestly road to truth, men who have nothing to give their hearers but instruction and moral impulse, who can remit no sins, impart no holy ghost, administer no sacraments which any other Christian might not administer as well, whose instructions have no authority or value apart from their reasonableness, and no likelihood of being reasonable, except according to the care and diligence expended upon them. Where and when have Christian teachers been contented to be simply teachers, freely speaking what they have freely thought,—and hearers to be simply hearers, neither receiving blindly what is old, nor rejecting blindly what is new, but proving all things that they may hold fast that which is good?

The answer to these questions is, unhappily, near at hand, and such as ought to grieve and humble every disciple of Jesus, who loves and honours the Gospel as the charter of the world’s liberties. Christianity is not so understood; is not so practised; is not so preached :—not, with scarcely an exception, by any sect or church of Christians; that is, not consistently, not thoroughly, not by the ruling majority of any sect or church; only partially, occasionally, and by individuals. Christianity has done great things for the world, it has put down many crying evils and mitigated many more, it has produced a noble army of martyrs for truth and righteousness, it has wrought mightily in many a holy life and many a peaceful death,—but it has not answered Christ’s design; to a great extent, and in some most important respects, it has hitherto proved a failure; its grand triumphs are yet to come; it has not purged out that leaven of the Pharisees which is hypocrisy and spiritual assumption, it has not made men brethren, it has not set the world free. There is as much tyranny over thought and the utterance of thought,—there is as much coarseness and worldliness in the agencies by which a dominant sect seeks to perpetuate and fasten its ascendency,—there is as much confounding of the merest trivialities of opinion and ceremony, the very anise and cummin of theology, with the weightiest matters of the law,—there is as much of the spirit that loves to be called Rabbi, and Master, and Father, in this nineteenth century of Christianity and this land of Protestant Orthodoxy, as there was in the first century, in the mother-country of Pharisees and Pharisaism. Our teachers of religion still call themselves priests, and claim a priestly lordship over faith and conscience,—and our people accord the claim in the gross, with here and there a rebellious protest, in the detail, against some of its more odious manifestations,—and our government enforces it by the terrors of law,—and ourselves enforce it by the alternate terrors and blandishments of opinion. In this Protestant and Christian land, this land blessed with a law of which Christianity is part and parcel,—in this age of tolerance and enlightenment, of repeal of penal statutes and desuetude of blasphemy prosecutions,—Christians are not free, Christianity is not a religion of free and equal brotherhood.


So why isn’t it????  Simple. Paul vs Jesus.  Paul says “Obey your masters.”  Jesus says “You only have one master, even Christ, and you are all brethren.”  Checkmate Paulinists.  The “church” is a chaos of gurus because Paul’s “authority” trip doesn’t produce anything but bad, foul, fruit.

I should also note, in one of the instances in the quoted text, “master” is didaskalos (teacher) and in another kathegetes (authority, leader).  Jesus is both our only teacher and only authority, and only leader.   Anyone teaching anything about “the gospel” that isn’t directly based on his words is out of line.

See the NASB of Matthew 23:8-10 with the Greek words in brackets:

But do not be called Rabbi [ραββι]; for One is your Teacher [καθηγητης or διδασκαλος depending on manuscript], and you are all brothers. Do not call anyone on earth your father; for One is your Father, He who is in heaven. 10 Do not be called leaders [καθηγηται]; for One is your Leader [καθηγητης], that is, Christ.

Yet the Paulinists are always having “leadership” conferences to learn to be better “leaders.”  Jesus is the shepherd. Any other “pastor” (i.e. shepherd) is climbing over the door of the sheep fold and is a thief or robber.  Jesus said so. See John 10.


Would we know Gentiles don’t need to be circumcised to be saved without Paul?

Whenever anyone suggests the possibility of rejecting Paul, instantly the “orthodox” will defend him with an assertion something like:

Without Paul we’d believe that Gentiles have to be circumcised to be saved.

Now, that’s an absurd claim considering that it is Paul’s doctrine that undoubtedly resulted in anyone believing that circumcision was necessary for the Gentiles to be saved, as I will now show.

If we had no Paul, if we only had the gospels, nobody would dare imagine that circumcision is necessary for Gentiles to be saved.  What does Jesus himself say?

18 And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations [or, all the Gentiles], baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the world.” Amen. (Matthew 28:18-20)

Jesus gave a command to make disciples of all nations, baptizing them.  Not circumcising them. And as I point out in brackets above, the phrase “all the nations” could also be translated “all the Gentiles.”  Nobody would get the idea that Gentiles have to be circumcised to be saved from this.

Again, Mark’s version, in Mark 16:15-16:

And He said to them: Go ye into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. He who believes and is baptized shall be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned.

Every “creature” emphasizes that the Gentiles are included, not just the Jews.  And what does he say?  He who believes and is baptized shall be saved.  He mentions nothing about circumcising them.  So, again, nobody would get the idea that Gentiles must be circumcised to be saved from this.

Now we come to the first non-proselyte Gentile to be saved.  That is, of course, in Acts 2 many Gentiles were baptized, but these were all Gentiles who had become proselytes to Judaism first.  The first non-proselyte Gentile to be saved was Cornelius, in Acts 10.  He was only a “god-fearer,” that is, one who attended synagogue with the Jews but had not gone through with circumcision.  When it was arranged by an angel and the Spirit that Peter would preach to this man and his household, the Holy Spirit fell on them, and Peter’s response to that event was (Acts 10:47-48):

47 “Can any man forbid water, that these should not be baptized, which have received the Holy Ghost as well as we?” And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord. Then prayed they him to tarry certain days.

Again, baptism.  But nothing about circumcision!

We also find that those who fled Jerusalem to get away from Paul’s (i.e. Saul’s) persecution went out as far as Antioch, preaching to Jews only.  But once they settled in Antioch, they began to preach to Gentiles as well. (Acts 11:19-20)

These preachers were men trained by the real apostles, yet they don’t require the Gentiles to be circumcised.  Its not until Acts 15 that anyone starts trying to do that, and that’s only after Paul’s arrival.  Does Paul have something to do with the doctrine that circumcision is required?


On two counts.  First, it is the result of Paul’s mistaken notion of salvation.  To Paul, being a child of Abraham equals salvation.  So for Gentiles to be saved requires that they be adopted into, or grafted into, Abraham’s family.  Jesus didn’t teach this.  We find none of the real apostles teaching this.  But Paul teaches it in various places, including his olive tree analogy:  The family of Abraham is a cultivated olive tree.  The Gentile world is a wild olive tree.  The unbelieving Jews are cast out of the Abrahamic olive tree, and the believing Gentiles are graft in.  Be careful, because if you stop believing, you can be cast out too.

Now, what’s wrong with the olive tree analogy?  It, together with Paul’s teaching in other places, makes the New Covenant out to be nothing but a rehash of the covenant with Abraham.  Indeed, Paul’s theology creates a dichotomy between the promise (to Abraham) and the law.   His opponents clearly see that in Paul’s mind the law is opposed to the promise.  Paul denies that he believes this, but its obvious that he actually does.  His theology is that the law opposes the promise to Abraham, so Christ took the law out, thus removing an obstacle to the covenant with Abraham, so that we all, both Jew and Gentile, can be part of the Abrahamic Covenant.

Well, what’s wrong with that?  The Abraham Covenant is the circumcision covenant.  When God made that covenant, he said any male who is not circumcised has broken that covenant, and is cut off from his people (i.e. from everyone else in that covenant).

So, if Gentile salvation is all about being graft into the Abrahamic Covenant (and Paul thinks it is) then circumcision is required!

You see then that Paul’s errant theology and strange way of viewing the New Covenant as simply removing the Law to go back to the Abrahamic Covenant, is the root of the belief that circumcision is required for Gentiles!

Now, for the second count.  I think we can go further, and say that Paul originally taught explicitly that Gentiles must be circumcised.  This is because as soon as he was “converted” Paul does not begin to teach Gentiles, but only Jews.  He argues with Jews in Damascus showing that Jesus “is indeed the Christ” and again in Arabia.  Then he comes to Jerusalem and Judea, where something very interesting happens!

After Barnabas vouched for Paul and he was “coming in and going out at Jerusalem” he gets into a big argument with “the Grecians” or “the Hellenists.”  This same phrase can also translated “the Gentiles” (which is how it has to be understood in Acts 11:20, mentioned earlier).

Acts 9:28-30

28 And he was with them [i.e. the churches of Judea] coming in and going out at Jerusalem. 29 And he spake boldly in the name of the Lord Jesus, and disputed against the Grecians: but they went about to slay him. 30 Which when the brethren knew, they brought him down to Caesarea, and sent him forth to Tarsus.

Although Paul has been accepted by the churches in Jerusalem/Judea, thanks to Barnabas, there is one group among them that he just can’t get along with: the Grecians.   The Grecians here can mean a few things (1) Gentiles, (2) Gentile proselytes to Judaism, (3) Hellenistic Jews or Jews who have accepted a lot of Greek culture and are kind of liberal, like Jews who don’t think too highly of circumcision, (4) any of the above who have converted to Christianity.

Now, what type of Grecians are these? Christian Grecians or unbelieving Grecians?  Luke leaves it deliberately vague, I think.

In any case, no matter what kind of Grecians we imagine it to be, the biggest thing they and Saul/Paul the Pharisee can disagree on is CIRCUMCISION.  That is because the Grecians (of any sort) will not value it, while Paul the Pharisee will.  So Paul undoubtedly gets into trouble with the Grecians by pushing circumcision on them in accordance with his Olive Tree Theology.

The result?  They run him out of town!  And his disciples sneak him away to safety and send him for a timeout in his hometown of Tarsus.

A few years later, when the church at Jerusalem hear how the Gentiles are accepting the gospel in Antioch (as taught by those who fled from Saul’s persecution, Paul is still in timeout at Tarsus and nowhere near Antioch) they send Barnabas to check it out (Acts 11:22)  and Barnabas picks up Paul from his timeout on the way there.

But why?  Because Paul is now a changed man.  Obviously Barnabas has been keeping in touch and knows that Paul has sliced the circumcision requirement off the top of his Olive Tree.

Nonetheless, in Acts 15, “And certain men came down from Judea and taught the brethren, saying: Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved.”  Who are these “certain men” and why does Luke not name them?  They are obviously ex-disciples of Paul, disciples of Paul’s older doctrine, men who believe the full-blown Olive Tree Theology that Paul was teaching prior to his timeout in Tarsus.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.