Jesus or Paul?
Where in the Bible do you find the Gospel?
Above all else, when we try to define 'The Word of God', we have to keep in mind that the Word became flesh, not pen and paper.
One thing that has really become undeniably obvious to me, especially while writing this book, is the stark differences between the Gospels and the Epistles, particularly Paul's Epistles.
I covered this material in the chapter about Paul ('A Man of Letters'), but I want to revisit it before I close this out.
I've previously mentioned some examples to make this assertion, but I want to point out a bigger issue here, which is the general difference of Paul's paradigm from that of Jesus on just about all the major subjects. And this is in no way meant to discredit Paul...I believe that his revelation of the post-resurrection Christ was unparalleled and absolutely flawless, as I've already said.
I just can't be done with this writing until I'm sure I've made this point, because if you don't understand this part, the rest of it might be in vain.
In general I always say that religion is the enemy, but I need to qualify that statement once again. It's really not religion that ruins peoples lives and causes such division, hatred and intolerance in the world, it's FUNDAMENTALISM...and that's why I want to do everything in my power to deconstruct the world-view of the religious fundamentalist, especially the CRISTIAN fundamentalist, and do what I can to dis-arm the haters who continue to use the Bible as a weapon against people they don't like or understand.
Allow me to mention of few of these subjects, in an effort to help us all do a better job of "rightly dividing" the Scriptures instead of "wrongly connecting" them.
ON SALVATION: Jesus' concept of the way to salvation seemed to be one that is completely connected with how you treat people...the sheep and the goats, according to Him, are separated according to whoever visited the sick and the prisoner, or fed the hungry..."I was hungry and you fed Me"...in the allegory of the rich man and Lazarus, the man is sent to the Greek "Hades" because he refused to feed a beggar who lived on his doorstep...the harlot is forgiven because she proved she "loved much" by washing Jesus' feet with her hair...Zacchaeus received salvation because he promised to return the money he had stolen from his clients ("This day salvation has come to your house").
Paul, on the other hand, seems to have no concept of this. His main emphasis is on how works can't save a person at all. Even when he speaks of the eventual salvation of Israel, he says that "With the heart man BELIEVES unto righteousness, and with the mouth CONFESSION is made unto salvation"...acts of kindness, benevolence or philanthropy don't seem to be high priority with Paul like they obviously were with Jesus...he also has a tendency to make "lists" of sins and/or "works of the flesh" in his Epistles, and the sin of "indifference to the poor or disenfranchised" that Jesus made a big deal over doesn't seem to make it into Paul's "lists"...
ON SPIRITUAL WARFARE: Jesus seems to have had a view of warfare with the forces of darkness as a finished work..."I saw Satan fall like lightning"..."Satan has come to me, but he has nothing in me"...it's as if once He descended the Mount of Temptation, there was no more warfare for Him with Satan...He was simply walking out His dominion in the earth...even when He cast out demons, He did so rather matter-of-factly, in that He would just say something like, "Shut up, and come out of him"...one of His most startling declarations is recorded in John 12, where He announces that the judgment of the world has already come, and that "Now the prince of this world is driven out"...it's here that He makes the most powerful statement ever about ultimate reconciliation when He says that if He is lifted up (on the cross) that He will draw ALL PEOPLE...EVERYONE..unto Himself...
Paul, on the other hand, sort of resurrected the activity of the "prince of this world" with his very militant view of our ongoing wrestling with "Principalities, powers, the rulers of the darkness of this world and spiritual wickedness in high places"...he speaks at length to both the Ephesians and the Corinthians about "the whole armor of God" and "the weapons of our warfare"...
ON RELATIONSHIPS WITH "SINNERS": It goes without saying that Jesus was so public with His fraternization of tax collectors, publicans, and the like, that He was labeled by the religious hierarchy as "The Friend of Sinners" (and they didn't mean it in an endearing way)...He even chose a few "criminals" to be on His staff of Disciples...
But Paul exhorts his readers to "Come out from among them and touch not the unclean thing" and "Be not unequally yoked with unbelievers"...
ON WOMEN: Women were vitally connected to the life and ministry of Jesus, and not just "nice girls"...Mary Magdalene, the woman caught in adultery, the harlot who washed His feet with her hair, the woman at the well who had been in so many marriages and was living with a man...all women that would have been ostracized by society...Jesus received and respected (and restored) every one of them...He even publicly called the woman with the issue of blood, who would have been considered a pariah in that culture, "Daughter"...Jesus completely liberated women...
But Paul tells women to be quiet and behave, especially in church, and to not usurp authority over men, and to obey their husbands and be in subjection to them, and to cover their heads in church to demonstrate their subservience to men...
ON HOMOSEXUALITY: I've already covered this in previous chapters, but the two passages that religious gay-bashers use to clobber people with same-sex attraction more than anything else, even more than the two passages in Leviticus (at least that has been my experience), are Romans 1 and 1 Corinthians 6, both from letters penned by Paul. The religious "urban legend" that gay people can't go to heaven comes from what Paul wrote to the Corinthian church about who would "inherit the Kingdom"...of course, if you read either of these passages in any kind of context (something that fundamentalists refuse to do), you'll see that Paul's words are regularly misunderstood and misquoted.
But even if they weren't...even if Paul was a homophobic Pharisee who was actually talking about responsible gay people in the modern world being "turned over to a reprobate mind" in Romans 1, the inescapable fact that the gay-bashing fundamentalists can never deny is that Jesus was completely and absolutely silent on the subject.
I could go on with other contrasts between The Gospel and the Epistles, but the point is this...yes, I believe that all Scripture is given by inspiration, but I don't believe that the Scriptures are infallible. Paul had great revelation from the Holy Spirit, but he had enormous influence from Moses, which is why the Scriptures, his letters in particular, must (for the bazillionth time I say) BE RIGHTLY DIVIDED!
I love and appreciate all the Bible authors, but Jesus Christ is my Lord...
...and the Gospel is GOOD NEWS.
I have one more chapter to write, and it will deal with some personal issues that I need to address, so this will be the last thing I say to you, my readers, in general.
God is good.
God is love.
God loves you just as you are.
He has a plan for your life.
There's always hope.
Your life matters.
You're awesome and beautiful and wonderful and intelligent and successful and completely unique.
There's no one like you, and never will be another.
You're an original.
You're God's masterpiece.
Enjoy your life.
Be who you were created to be.
Have no regrets.
Be blessed in everything you do...you have so much for which to be grateful.
I love you for reading this book.
Alyways put the GOOD NEWS first...