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Monday, October 22, 2012

Can We Really Trust Paul?

In 1 Timothy 3:15 Paul tells Timothy his purpose for the letter.  In some New Testament books we have to read book several times to discern the intention of the author.  In some cases, like John 20:30 – 31 and Acts 1:8 the author tells us explicitly what he is doing with the book.  1 Timothy 3:15 is one of those books where the purpose is explicit.  Paul tells Timothy that his purpose is to communicate proper conduct in the church of the living God.  That clarity is really helpful or a real problem.
Can we really trust what Paul says?  Did the Holy Spirit really inspire him?  If so what are the implications of that on our behavior?
If it is the case that Paul’s writing is scripture as Peter states in 2 Peter 3:15 – 16, then Paul is inspired by the Holy Spirit and this letter has the same weight as the Old Testament.  That is not a challenge if one happens to agree with Paul.  If one does not like what Paul says it creates a significant challenge.  A great deal of effort has been expended to explain away portions of this letter which liberal theologians consider politically incorrect up to and including the denial of Pauline authorship of the letter and questioning its inclusion in the canon.

That effort is driven by those expending it so that when they choose to disregard the explicit writings of Paul, they can say that they are not disobeying God.  While I do not agree with their positions I am humbled by their integrity.  Rather than simply ignoring a clear directive in Scripture as some in the Church do, they are at least trying to justify, albeit erroneously, their choice.

The problem is that sets those who choose this path as judges over scripture.  What is and what is not.  But in a sense we do that as well.  When we choose to ignore or disobey what the Scripture plainly says, we are judging what we think is important and what we deem not so much.  Judging.  So for both choices it comes down to can we really trust Paul.  By extension the question is can we really trust the Holy Spirit inspired Paul.  Can we really trust the Bible?

Far too many choose the wrong answer to that question.