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Expressive but Unimpressive
A letter received made some interesting points, which relate closely to what has been said in former generations. This is how the matter appears. It was presented that Paul was a corrupter, that he tormented and twisted what Christ said, that God did not make any man a repository of truth, and that Peter had no authority to direct, yes and apparently no one did, and that further Paul taught men to rationalise sin instead of overcoming it, while arrogant corrupters twist Christ’s teachings about salvation, falsely claiming this state.
It was strange: for if Christ is to be heeded, what is the fuss about human prophets ? To be sure, Christ is the Son of God, but yet human! If He is to be rejected in this philosophic way, by another human, and that with authority, we seem to collide like contrary waves. If man cannot relay what God has in mind, moreover, including the Son of God, how does this differ from simple unbelief ? and in that case, why the concern about what Christ said ? After all, if He were an imposter (cf. SMR Ch. 6), there would be no possibility in calling His teaching good, like a good fraud, or an enlightened trickster; and if He were mad, how is that NO ONE has EVER done so much to delineate history and man in precisely the way events have confirmed, whether in things great or small!
Telling God that HE CANNOT tell us through men (and thus
through His Son), is certainly authoritative! but of
what kind is this authority ? Is it founded in assumptions that God is incapable ? that our own created
and exquisite expressive powers dazzle the Almighty who cannot keep up ? or that these same powers CANNOT be used by God, to
transcribe, which transcribe from each other continually ?
If however your God is to be less than man, why bother! He could never have created him. If instead you are to acknowledge (cf. Earth Spasm Chs. 1 , 7, TMR 1, 8, SMR Ch. 2) that God has made man, and that the book of life in its billions of coded units and commands, did not write itself, then what is the use of prescribing for Him ? It is only pathetic nonsense to tell your own Maker what He cannot do, that you could: for assuredly each of us can speak to the other! What puny putty of man’s mind is this, then! Obviously, to talk of this is to talk of secular myth, and if it be adorned with self-contradictory religious propositions, does this improve it!
It may be well therefore to share something of the reply given to this letter, as others may be tempted to heed such talk, if not in one point, then perhaps in another. When the words which God has spoken (cf. Barbs, Arrows and Balms 6 -7, SMR Ch. 1, Wake Up World! … Ch. 2, Tender Times for Timely Truths Ch.8, Spiritual Refreshings Ch. 16) are found to be verified on all sides at all times in all ways, and the more so where it is impossible for mere human intellect to come, and go, he who would put his mouth where the mouth of God is, in the Bible, and tell it to be quiet, has more audacity than substance, like Stalin telling nature to CONFORM to his will, now that Communism had come. It did not do it. In the end, that is always the case: NOTHING man makes up from his mind ever has either validity or virtue: it never works.
As to truth, it could not even be KNOWN if it did not exist, and without the living and articulate God, it would not exist in order to be known, or narrated, in any theory, in the first instance, and would not be available as such, on the other, since psycho-analysing God is a work which even the most brash could not be permitted to attempt. Asses cannot neigh, only bray, and man cannot speak for God! Only GOD can speak through man, if He will, just as some star among men, could communicate his life history to a writer: IF HE WILL!
SOME ELEMENTS OF RESPONSE
Thank you for your communication.
The thought that Paul did something different to Christianity that Peter and the other apostles did not happen to notice, Peter himself referring to Paul’s writings as scripture (II Peter 3:16) has often been touted, never with reason.
Again, I do not know to which chapter 6 on our Web site you refer in your note, since there are scores of chapter sixes, literally, in the 60 odd volumes to be found there. You refer to Paul and the Minor Prophets. Interestingly, Isaiah and Paul have roughly equal numbers of pages in the Bible I have, and very extensive treatment is given to both on our Web Site, as also to the Psalms, themselves extensive, and to the relationship between these and other writings and doctrine, not excluding the minor prophets by any means: a necessary toil for thoroughness of examination of the word of God and exhibition of its consistency.
However, any concept that Paul tried to rationalise sin instead of overcoming it in itself is merely a criticism he met in his own day, and answered in Romans Ch. 3, and Chs. 6-8 (note esp. 3:8). Thus you could say that Marx was obsessed with power structures, and provide relevant data for such a contention, but to say that he was mad on cars would not really be relevant at all. There has to be some justice in a word, to make it worthy.
It is, Paul affirms categorically in these chapters of Romans, a gross misrepresentation, a slander, so to say, to make such a presentation, and as his argument develops, we see that it is contrary to the basic Christian recognition. It is that of the living Christ in the Christian
(where He does not live, the life concerned will be about as like a Christian as a torch is like an atomically powered electricity grid),
who makes a vast empowerment, so that yielding the members to sin is close to self-contradiction (Romans 6:5ff., 8:1ff.), a point dramatically brought out by contrast from the negative illustration in Romans 7, where the need of Christ is dramatically depicted (cf. The Biblical Workman Ch. 2 covers this.
As Peter knew so well, a fall can occur, as King David also knew, but Paul like John (I John 3:9), makes this categorical statement on sin, which is based on Christ, not reason, in the sense that while reason reveals the Christ of scripture as truth, it does not do HIS SAVING WORK FOR HIM.
That, Christ does Himself! And it is He who perfects it (Psalm 138:8, Philippians 3:12ff, , 1:6, II Corinthians 3:18, Zephaniah 3:16, Isaiah 54:10 with 65:13ff., 50-55 (SMR). That is the essence of Christianity: it is the same in the Psalms, in Isaiah, in Paul, in Peter (I Peter 1-2), as the former point to Christ in front, and the last to Him behind, after His coming; and He did it purity, in satisfaction for sin (Matthew 20:28, Isaiah 53), in direct gift of eternal life on that sacrificial basis (John 6:50ff., Isaiah 53:4-10), and requires faith in Himself as the “I am” (John 8:58, 5:19-23) who not only does what the Father does, but in the SAME WAY. That is what He says. But let us revert to the statement made by Paul, noted above.
Which statement ? This: “Knowing this, that our old nature is crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin. For he that is dead is freed from sin.”
To confuse reason with Christ, or rationalisation with sanctification really doesn’t go.
“What then ? shall we sin because we are not under the law, but under grace ? God forbid. Do you now know that to whom you yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants you are to whom you obey; whether of sin to death, or of obedience to righteousness ?” (Romans 6:16).
Christ put it in a wholly parallel way, in John 8:35ff.. It is all one; the power of the living Christ to remove the guilt of sin (Matthew , Galatians 3), to overcome the power of sin (John 10:9 with 27-28, Romans -12, 6-15), and to administer the redeemed property by living within it (Colossians , John 6:50ff., Zephaniah 3:16-17): It is one, the same.
Sometimes people ignore the context
in Romans 6:14, on which you may care to consult
The Impregnable Tower Ch. 3, and it is germane at the first heading into the text, at that site, namely that mentioning Romans 6. In fact, Paul is giving the reason WHY sin shall not have dominion over the Christian, quite simply, NOT why it shall! He asseverates on the topic, and these are his words!
On this site, this error that many wrongly and in violation of both context and actual sentence, here attribute to Paul was exposed long ago. In so doing they contradict not only the context but the repeated word and deed of the apostle. Paul’s teaching is quite clear and it is not such as some loosely imagine, as he vigorously affirmed, in word and deed. This should help you to understand, for some indeed contradict Paul by snipping out this and that from the context.
Further, both Paul and Christ, not only make it clear that salvation is a gift, SAYING SO, but that enormous resurgent efforts are apt as you work out your own salvation with fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12-13), and strive to enter in at the strait gate (Matthew 7 cf. Matthew 5-7 The Sermon on the Mount), as expression and indeed impetus from that salvation, which including Christ in you (John 6:50ff., Colossians 1:27) gives the very power of God in both the energising and the protection of the gift.
Incidentally, concerning another point you make: the meaning of Paul’s teaching can be obtained by studying what he says. One test is the application in life, and another in cases to which it may be adduced. Yet there is a far better way. In my own speech, I do not think it fitting if someone tells me what I mean when it is not what I say! There is a name for that.
In general, if there is any inconsistency real or imagined between the statement (to which a man puts his name, not someone or other’s true or false, imagined or projected inferences from it) and the application, this can be studied. I have never found any in over 50 years in the teaching of the word of God; but the exact opposite and often point this out in numerous precise studies, available on the Web site as is fitting in Christian Apologetics, by comparing other scriptures with the one in hand, such as Paul and Minor Prophets, or Psalm and major prophet and so on. It is part of the task of rigorous examination and verification.
On the topic of an account of types
of morality, this is given broadly in the above site, at
News 19, where the nature of requirements for morality are given examination by reason, for which also see SMR Ch. 5 and topical Indexes to be found on the Home Page.
Now we come further to your point about rationalising corruption: this is good in one respect, that Christ and the apostles all alike met corruption head on (cf. Matthew 23, Acts 2-5), refuted it, exposed it verbally, in practice and in no small measure paid for their doing so whether by being crucified (cf. Matthew 21:45), whipped (cf. Acts 5:40) or defamed (Romans 3:8), and Paul in particular by constantly gaining the enmity of the Jews for his fearless exposition of the word of God – as in Acts 9:2;3, 14:19-20, made harder to bear by his benevolent dealings with healing and goodwill in the midst of afflictions. However, this same point of yours is wholly wrong in its application.
In fact, Paul specifically and rightly, and in terms of his actual teaching, both abominates PRECISELY THAT and throws it back into the lacerating teeth of his false accusers at his own day (Romans 3:8)! John detests such a false dichotomy likewise (cf. I John 3:16-20).
What is it then which so attributes such things to Paul who in word and deed exhibited such a good example of following Christ in His own assaults on pretence, pretension and hypocrisy (as in Matthew 23, Romans 2, Acts 13:36-52), people departing from the teachings of the word of God, and using violence to answer him (Acts 14:1-7,19-20) ? It is necessary to be reflective. Our point above about cars … applies. The omission in the acrid assumptions apparently in view concerning him, seems to be this: quite simply the POWER OF GOD (as in II Timothy 3:5s prediction for this omission in the last days cf. II Tim. 3:1).
v As you indicate, arrogant exploiters, indeed, often do claim they have been saved, and some of these are given treatment in Jude and II Peter 2, “who speak evil of what they do not know” (Jude 10), who are “spots on your love feasts” (Jude 12). As to salvation: If it is not by faith through grace (Ephesians 2), thus ignoring the Gospel of Christ and the apostles, one and the same (John 3, Acts 2, John 6:50ff.); if it is not something GIVEN by the Lord who comes as He wishes (John Chs. 1, 3, 10:27-28, Romans 6:23), gives as He wishes (John 6), and if it is moreover, as often imagined, deemed to be by the will of man (contrary to John 1:12-14, Romans 9:16), it is indeed near to that apostate type which departs from Paul as Isaiah, from Psalm (e.g. Psalm 32) as from Christ, from Peter (e.g. I Peter 1) as from John (I John 3:1-9, 5:9-13).
Arrogance here is chiefly telling God instead of listening to His word. None of us would like to be told how to forgive someone! That, it could soon be arrogant indeed. A prohibition sent to the Almighty about human prophets might be convenient for many, but devilish ones abound anyway, with no basis but themselves and whatever other sources of confusion in which they may find allure (II Corinthians 10:12 cf. I Corinthians 10:12).
Incidentally, it should be pointed out that, presumably inadvertently, you appear to have a manufactured straw man in the rejection of Paul as a “source of truth”.
Actually, if you read I Cor. 2:9-13, you will find that it is GOD whom Paul claims to be the source of truth, and in those verses, the apostle even indicates in what way, as with the prophets of old (“thus says the Lord”), it was communicated both as to substance and word, by the Lord, and not to him alone. Thus your concept that Paul was not a source of truth, as if he had claimed his wisdom as its basis (contrary to I Cor. 1, and starkly contrary to Galatians 1), does not relate to Christianity, except by agreement.
Paul is a CHANNEL of truth, and GOD is expressly the source, so that Paul like others, is not sinless because God has used him as a prophet, nor yet does he allow sin to have dominion over him. Neither pride nor false humility are in point, but the work of God as HE pleases, attests and confirms.
It is express that it is not through any wisdom of his own that these inscripturated words have come, nor through any authority of his that he achieved them. The resultant words given to him, however, have both these qualities, as does other scripture, for one reason alone (II Corinthians 13:8-9 cf. Galatians 1:8), that it is the word which God chose to send. This He did, as He did through numerous prophets before, recognised in His people, applied by divine power through prophecy and presence, though many sought to slay them, as now some would almost seem to do with unreasoned words. In fact Paul, in these terms, asseverates that if anyone INCLUDING HIMSELF teaches anything contrary to the Gospel already preached, then woe to that person.
This hardly makes of him through any wisdom or personal stature, the source! That is wholly diverse from his presentation and Peter’s acceptance of these words. Paul is the servant, and God is the source. Indeed, affirming one Gospel preached by himself and the other apostles (I Corinthians 15:7-11), in Galatians 1:8, he roundly declared that even if he himself preached a Gospel other than that already preached, the sentence was the same: “let him be accursed”. It was not the man, but the matter given, which was the truth resource. This was from Paul, and II Peter 3:16 was from Peter, each attesting the same thing, in perfect reciprocity and accord.
Indeed, if God did not send truth through a man, you would rule out Christ also, Christ who indicated the same basis of grace and salvation by the work of God alone, in His sacrifice, with His own power changing the heart and inspiring the recreated will, as Paul, as you see in John Chs. 6, 3 and so on, Christ whose testimony despises reckless philosophy (Mark 7:7ff.), and provides in works and words what was both forecast and fulfilled, doing and saying what likewise has been fulfilled, and is so continually (cf. SMR Ch. 8).
v Of course, you could have a Moses who didn’t adumbrate a Christ (as in Deuteronomy 18) to be obeyed, and a Christ who didn’t promise the Spirit to lead the apostles into all truth (John 16:13, Luke 24:25-26,49), and a Peter who was so misled that he incorrectly called Paul’s writings scripture (II Peter 3:16 cf. Luke 24:25-26, I Peter 1:10ff., II Peter 1:16ff.), in explicit parallel with the written and inscripturated words of former prophets, and a band of apostles who didn’t realise the error, and so on; but this would be another religion, using the name of Jesus for its own purposes, and failing to establish its own credentials as He did, so that His name has no equal.
(Cf. Repent or Perish Ch. 2, The Magnificence of the Messiah, and Christ, the Wisdom of God and the Power of God Ch. 8. Also important here, is SMR Appendix C and D which, it is suggested, should be given a high order of priority in any approach to this domain.)
What then ? It is useless to criticise what is not there. That, if it be an exercise in imagination, must likewise be wholly irrelevant. Moreover, such a religion, having no base and no face is not at all competitive. It would be, further, to “reverse everything Christ taught”, or impinging on this field!
In fact, nowhere in the Bible is sin condoned, allowable as a mode of life, but the opposite is stressed (II Timothy 4:6-8, Philippians 3:8-14, I Corinthians 4, II Corinthians 4, John 8:35ff., I John 2-3, Habakkuk), though nowhere is it put as if the people redeemed by God (Matthew 20:28, Romans 3:25ff., Hosea 13:14, 14) were sinless either; for there are sins of which the heart may not even be unaware (Psalm 139:23-24), and with Christ as criterion, only arrogance itself can make comparison WITH HIM, in view of His record and nature (Philippians 2).
I hope this helps. As to Paul and Christ, some excellent work has been done on this topic by J. Gresham Machen, in his The Origin of Paul’s Religion, in which he very well rebuts some very lose thinking.
Let us now leave these aspects of the letter, and consider more broadly, some of the fundamental issues involved.
v It is indeed unfortunate that God via His word can be so greatly execrated, that not only are his apostles misconceived, but in such misconceptions, like some Punch and Judy show, are made to hammer each other. Then one is singled out for abominable shame, in terms directly contrary to his own energetic and vigorous statements, in which he dismissed JUST such attacks in his own day.
Is it not however much the same with
the Romanist ‘Peter’ (cf. SMR pp. 1061-1064: for the real Peter was the
one who most familiar with humility, called himself a fellow elder with the
rest -I Peter 5), forbidding ANY elder to act as a lord or even in a lordly fashion.
To the contrary, whilst the papal language has objectively left all mere pride
for dead (cf. SMR pp. 912ff.),
soaring elevated into empty skies as if to make a glorious pride of its own
genre, even in formal communications in terms of its Office, the Second Vatican
v Nor is the Islamic position fundamentally different in execration of what is true, in terms of idle inventions; for it has a Christ who did not die for sin, and who in one account did not die, in another did (cf. More Marvels Chapter 4 ), and who is to be supplanted by their Muhammad for NO reason and against ALL reason (cf. SMR pp. 830ff., 1080ff., 986ff.), unless it is to fulfil Christ’s prediction of false PROPHETS AND false CHRISTS. It was He who foretold this new and ostentatious, meretricious apparel to replace the only One who did the verifiable works in word and deed, and Himself fulfilled the inspectable prophecies, and never in anything written or done was ever able to be pinpointed as in error, even by the most prodigious minds, or in the most appallingly inhumane distresses, into which His mission as in Isaiah 50-55, of sacrifice for sin had placed Him.
v As to the Communist fiasco, that turning on his head of Hegel in Marxism (cf. SMR pp. 127ff., News 37), so that instead of ideas generating contrary ideas, ready for putative and postulated resolution in some creative way, in principle (but not in intention) as if everything were spiritually generating everything slowly from next to nothing with the utmost facility, you had matter doing its knowledgeable dance, as if its matrices could liberate the human spirit and generate the human mind, while taking care to bring themselves into being in their most lawful ways from chaos, which in turn had to invent its most fertile and imaginative self from nothing.
v Its relationship to Christianity, much like that of Romanism and Islam in its basic underground resources, has this in common with both: that Christ is prostituted in reality, though He is unavailable for such reformation. To each his need is merely a misapplication of a Christian ethic, from each according to his ability, almost a paraphrase of some of Paul in Romans 12. If it made grossly literalistic and unspiritual in scope, it is nevertheless verbally a clone.
v As to the Communist perspective of the people the saviour (cf. SMR 861-862, 1193ff.) - as if the sinless Son of Man could become the sin-laden voice of the people, in the dictatorship of the proletariat - and of course they too the lord: it too is merely stuff for irony. Did the ‘people’ grab power, in principle take it from the Creator in His Redeemer Christ, in order to depute it absolutely to the iron-fisted will of those ‘administering’ the dehumanised collective ideals, executed, in more ways than one, by highly individual and even individualistic false christs, such as Lenin, doubly false (cf. SMR pp. 965-966, 925-928, 971-2, Aviary of Idolatry, News 37) it now appears, with withering cynicism.
As to that kaleidoscope of human sin
formatted into ludicrous jangling beads with no light, as seen in these references
also, its materialist prophecies were falsified in history as impossible in
logic (cf. Repent or Perish Ch. 7, SMR
pp. 127ff,); and as to its false
prophets who for a few years conquered much of Europe, their dreams were
revealed as broken ideals wrought with force, accomplished in farce, literally
littering the land with vast wastes as in East Germany, and holes in the
ground, where living souls had once
been. To be sure the resurrection will vanquish much of this; but many
were buried first in the quagmires of false doctrine, and then in the earth, in
that inveterate hatred which reveals itself, even within.
Would the ‘State’ wither away ? Alas not the State, which instead maxmimised its ferocious velocity with the chop, the exile, the expropriation, the playing of god without His resources (cf. SMR pp. 925-928, 652, News 35), wisdom or grace: for it boomed and bloomed, while the people faded, jaded with the fiasco of inglorious power, totalitarian hostility, secret raptures into Siberia or the KGB interrogation rooms, or those of their predecessors in mass corruption.
Neither matter nor masses do anything in the end: man is governed by invisible desire, character, ideals, hopes, vision and guidance, be it of God or the devil, whether manufactured in delusion (cf. SMR pp. 255-265, Predestination and Freewill Section IV, It Bubbles … Ch. 9, Little Things Ch. 5), from the infernal burnings which scorch his soul, or granted by God in His Creator’s heart and wisdom. To postulate that there is and can be no truth, is scarcely a stylish way to announce it. If only they had not heeded this dream, they might have been spared its dumping grounds.
v So does the vigour of false teaching, whether of this kind or of that, confirm the prophecies of the same, that it would well up like some black well, at the end (Matthew 24:24, II Peter 2). It is the teaching which one must condemn for its irrational surge and inaccurate misrendering of the very plain text of the Bible, when this is delusively twisted, or of its principles, when these are mischievously misapplied.
As to those who do these things, among
the yet living, one can pray for them; as to their victims, no less. We may
also help answer such prayers by many.
v Hence on this site, we seek to help any who may become confused, for if there is one thing which hides beauty, it is this same smoke screen of confusion. Peace, rationality, validity and verification, not once, but in all things, this comes in the clear sunshine of the truth of the absolute God, who has made an absolute declaration dependent on Himself alone, with absolute communication at His command, to tell absolutely to man on earth just what He wants, in words which absolutely never fail, and issue like some surging breaker crashing, in Jesus Christ Himself, to epitomise the marvel, and surge on in the apostles, one Lord, one Gospel, the divine library with one unified conception, one portrayal with that family liberty which looks at every facet, and yet remains transfixed with the brilliance of the whole.
v As to Christ, here is the point: it is not the rank littleness of little man on the desolate wastes of the moon, but the glorious exhibition verified in all things, of God’s prediction, not where the rocket will land, but where His Son will be born, when die, what do (Highway of Holiness Ch. 4, SMR Chs. 8 -9), and His Son’s verified words on what has to happen then, and why, and how to find Him, and this in entire accord with all that went before, fulfilling it like the bloom the bud (cf. Barbs, Arrows and Balms 17, TMR 3).
v Nor was His Son landed on earth in order to destroy, or to have power to do so, as the rockets land, but to save, as He alone can; nor did He litter the atmosphere with radioactive waste, but cleansed the earth of sin in one day (Zechariah 3:9, Hebrews 9:12-28), even all who avail themselves, not of the first step of man on the moon, but the last step of God for man, the crucifixion and resurrection of His SON ON SITE! (Hebrews 9, I John 1-2, 14:29-31, Matthew 24:24—51, Ephesians 1:10).
v Reason demands it, but faith must receive it, and more than this (cf. John 5:39-40), receive HIM who came, not merely His retinue (or claimed retinue), the news of Him or a desire for Him. Desire for vitamins does not enliven: you must take them; and here, it is HIMSELF that you must receive (John 1:12), as must all, for there is no other name given among men by which they must be saved (Acts 4:11-12), nor will there be (Ephesians 1:10), nor could there be (Hebrews 9:25ff.), nor should there be (I John 3:1ff., Romans 8:32, Titus 2-3).
See also Answers to Questions Ch. 7, which gives a very extensive treatment of many features of this topic.