Thursday, December 21, 2006

Paul and Jesus' Death

Somehow, Paul—the first century missionary and apostle of Jesus—appeared on a university campus in the 21st century. Paul has stayed with Don, a university professor of Hebrew literature, who invited him to lecture and answer student’s questions. Paul is currently in dialogue with a theology student named Joe.

Joe: But isn’t the divinity of Jesus essential for the atonement?
Paul: Please, simpler words for me.
Joe: Well, the meaning of Jesus’ death, isn’t it wrapped in Jesus being God already?
Paul: Ah, Anselm.
Joe: Yes.
Paul: Perhaps you could explain to those who are not as theologically astute as you who Anselm was and why he enters into this discussion.
Joe: You are asking me to lecture?
Paul: Just explain, please.
Joe: Well, Anselm said that only a man who was in essence God could have a death that would mean something for the entire human race. He was God, and so God laid his own life down for the sake of all sinners so that they would not have to suffer death.
Don: Wasn’t substitutionary theory around before Anselm, around the eleventh century?
Joe: Yes, but he expressed it in it’s classic form. Before Anselm, it was generally believed that Jesus tricked Satan into killing him so Satan would have to forgo the rulership of the world.
Don: Ah, so substituionary atonement wasn’t really a belief until the middle ages?
Joe: Pretty much so.
Paul: To answer your question, Jesus’ death has everything to do with divinity. But the divinity of authority, not essence.
Joe: Now you are confusing me.
Paul: We said before that to be “God” in the apostle’s mind is to speak of a position of authority, like a king, not to be a certain kind of being.
Joe: Okay.
Paul: Well, Jesus’ aim was to have a certain kind of authority, but he had to obtain it in the proper way. Most kings or emperors would be guilty of the sin of “pride” or of trying to gain authority on their own merit or work. For instance, the Caesars would obtain their authority by executing wars, displaying to the people their power over the Senate.
Joe: A kind of “might makes right”?
Paul: Yes. That is how the world works. Jesus, however, expressed something different. He said, “The one who makes himself lower, God will raise higher. And the one who lifts himself higher, God will make lower.”
Joe: But how does one get higher or lower? What exactly is meant by being higher or lower?
Paul: To be higher means to take on more authority or power than you have the right to have. For instance, CEOs nowadays would be people who puff themselves up to such a degree that they push themselves into positions of great authority, wealth and power, even though they don’t really deserve it, on their own merits.
Joe: So to be “higher” is kind of like an Enron scheme. If you say you are great loud enough and with enough money behind you, people typically believe you…
Paul: And you will obtain authority you do not deserve. Correct.
Joe: But how does one lower oneself?
Paul: By giving up one’s rights. By sacrificing one’s rights for others.
Joe: But that isn’t right. We shouldn’t give up our rights. To give up on our rights is to give an opportunity for others to take advantage of us. To give others the opportunity to be an oppressor.
Paul: Yes. In this is the essence of Christianity.
Joe: You are saying that the ethical foundation of Christianity is to be oppressed? To allow oppressors to reign without check? That is ridiculous…
Paul: No, not at all. Self-sacrifice for the sake of others is one of the most important themes in my writings. If you don’t see that, you’ve missed everything I wrote. You American Christians! I have never met such a materialistic bunch! You are constantly focused on this age, the powers of this world, the salvation of this world—acting as if God doesn’t even exist! No wonder you are struggling so much against atheism—because ultimately you are no different from the atheists! Neither of you believe that God will act in this world.
Joe: What are you talking about?
Paul: To say that self-sacrifice is immoral—as many Americans do—is to deny the statement of Jesus. He said that to lower oneself is to give opportunity for God to raise you up. Jesus was looking to be raised up—he wanted to have the authority of God—so he lowered himself more than anyone else. He gave up more of his rights than anyone. More rights than anyone could.
Joe: By dying on the cross?
Paul: More than just that. Before he was born, Jesus was a spirit being, completely free, completely powerful, living like a king.
Joe: He was God?
Paul: Yes. He created the world with the Father. He had all power and authority that anyone could want. He was set in life already. Then he gave it up to be the most imprisoned, frustrated being in the universe—a human infant.
Joe: An infant is the most imprisoned being…?
Paul: Absolutely. No speech, no movement—an infant can’t even feed herself without someone doing it for her. To change from being God to an infant is the ultimate sacrifice of one’s liberty.
Joe: That is true, I guess.
Paul: So then Jesus grew, and his rights grew. He became an adult—which isn’t as good as being divine, but still some power. But then Jesus chose to die the death of a cross.
Joe: So he gave up his right to life.
Paul: Not just his right to life, but to every shred of honor he ever had. The point of a crucifixion is that the victim is hung, and so declared a reject from society. He is exposed and so he is ashamed before all. He is mocked, so that his ostracism is complete. By the time a person is finished being crucified, it is clear that he is only a piece of flesh, not a human at all. He has no rights, nothing is left of him that makes him different than a piece of meat. This is what Jesus chose for himself. The lack of any individuality, any personhood.
Joe: And so why did he do this? Why would anyone suffer so?
Paul: He did it in order to obtain divinity. To be declared ruler of the people of God.
Joe: How would the stripping of one’s rights accomplish this?
Paul: By the justice of God! Remember the principle Jesus said—“Anyone who lowers themselves will be raised by God” God will take those who do not receive justice on earth and give them what they deserve. If we only receive what we deserve, God won’t do anything to us at all. If a criminal is punished, God doesn’t touch the process. If a good man is given authority, God doesn’t mess with it. But if an evil person who oppresses others is given authority, God destroys them. And if a holy, good and merciful person receives a humiliating death, then God will correct the injustice.
Joe: But if this is the case, then shouldn’t anyone—like John F Kennedy, for example—who did good but was punished for it, receive what Jesus got—a seat next to the Father.
Paul: I don’t know much about your American history, but I believe that Kennedy wasn’t a completely righteous man? And wasn’t he exalted in the world?
Joe: Well, perhaps he was a poor example. But what about others—saints who suffered then? Martyrs for God?
Paul: Certainly they would be rewarded and receive resurrection. That is the promise of the Christian life. If you suffer unjustly, God will grant you resurrection. But Jesus even more so.
Joe: How is this? What makes Jesus different?
Paul: Because he lowered himself more than anyone else could. He was powerful—more power than any human—and he lowered himself to such a degree that he was nothing even in the sight of humanity. No one—NO ONE—could lower himself as much as Jesus did. And so no one could be raised up as high as Jesus. Jesus is seated at the right hand of God, given the authority of God himself over the whole world, because Jesus gave up more rights than anyone else. And this is why I am so upset at you American Christians!
Joe: Why?
Paul: Because you have turned Christianity into upholding rights on earth! It is excellent to do good for others—we should always help the needy—but you are denying Jesus’ principles if you call for everyone to stand up for their rights! It is better to be ashamed and lowered and have God grant you blessings for suffering oppression than for you to exalt yourself. Ultimately, the program of standing up for oneself is one of God humiliating you! How many people, having gotten some rights, don’t look for more and more until their power exceeds what they can justly claim as their own?
Joe: It is true that power—even the power of rights—corrupts even the innocent.
Paul: The salvation of Jesus is to give all justice into God’s hands! We sacrifice our rights and lower ourselves so that we may receive greater power from God. But you want to trade every blessing from God for the paltry reward you receive from your so-called justice system. Seek God’s gift, not the world’s earnings for what you didn’t really deserve.
Joe: So you are saying it is better to be oppressed…
Paul: It is better to be oppressed for you will receive God’s salvation. Those who stand up for their rights receive the reward of the corrupt and oppressor. Haven’t you ever heard of Jesus’ saying, “Blessed are you who are persecuted for righteousness, for yours is the kingdom of God. But woe to you who are rich, for you have already received your comfort.”? Blessed are you who are oppressed, who have given up on your rights, for you will gain the resurrection of God. But woe to you who are powerful, who demand your rights, for you will be crushed by God.

Paul and the Trinity

Somehow, Paul—the first century missionary and apostle of Jesus—appeared on a university campus in the 21st century. Paul has stayed with Don, a university professor of Hebrew literature, who invited him to lecture and answer student’s questions.

Joe: (A student of theology at the university) Alright, let me get straight to the point.
Paul: That is fine.
Joe: Is Jesus God?
Paul: Yes, he is.
Joe: (A smug smile appears on his face and he response with a sarcastic tone.) Fine, Paul. Since you affirm Jesus to be the second person of the Trinity, equal to God in every way, then let me ask you, why does your writings have no indications whatsoever of the trinity or even of Jesus’ deity?
Paul: You are jumping ahead of yourself, son. I said nothing of the Trinity.
Joe: No? Didn’t you declare that Jesus is God?
Paul: Yes. But this is not the same as most statements made of the Trinity, in its traditional form.
Joe: Explain the difference to me.
Paul: The classic form of the Trinity is an expansion of the statement made at the council of Nicene?. That statement is that Jesus is of the essence of the Father. The Father, as Jesus stated, is God. Jesus is the son of God. However, we have no clear evidence that Jesus is of the same essence of the Father. The same power, yes. The same authority on earth, yes. But not the same essence.
Joe: Excuse me, but how would Paul the apostle know of the council of Nicene?
Paul: The same as you: I read. Frankly, I probably know it better for I read it in Greek and then discussed the implications and history of it with my friend, Professor Don.
Joe: (Smirking) Oh, right. Of course. So what is the difference between the Nicene statement of “essence” with statements made in the New Testament?
Paul: To claim that Jesus is “God” is a very general statement, which could mean a number of things. In my experience, I saw Jesus as the powerful Lord, having all the glory of God.
Joe: How can your vision really rate as evidence?
Paul: How can you rate that you are seeing me as evidence? You can say to your friends, “I saw Paul today” and they might say, “Prove it, we don’t think you really did.” And you would stammer, because you expected to have your word taken as truth. Even so, my word represents my experience and so how can you call it a lie?
Joe: But if you had a dream, you wouldn’t necessarily try to pass that off as reality.
Paul: I saw Jesus face-to-face, just as you are seeing me. It wasn’t a vision, it was a real-life event. I wasn’t asleep, nor was it a dream…
Joe: But couldn’t it have been? After all, you fell off your horse…
Paul: (Irritated) What horse? Who was there, you or I? You think I was some general, that I could afford a horse? I was walking with my servants and Jesus just appeared in front of me, all light as a glowing presence—no question, he was divine. This was no dream.
Joe: (Putting up his hands) Sorry, I suppose I have no right to question your experience…
Paul: Quite right.
Joe: But you saw Jesus appear and glow in front of you, is there some other explanation than that he was divine?
Paul: Like what?
Joe: Ummm… couldn’t he have been sent from God? Given the glowing and the appearing?
Paul: (Confused) Of course he was sent.
Joe: But… to say Jesus is divine… is to say he is the only God.
Paul: The problem, I think, is many people’s limited understanding of the English language. To say someone is “divine” certainly does not mean that someone is of the same being or essence as God the Father. Yes, that is one explanation, although a complicated one…
Joe: Complicated? Isn’t it just saying that God is one and three?
Paul: Yes, and the math is certainly confusing. I am not saying that the theologians are wrong. But I am saying that it isn’t the only option of what the apostles were saying.
Joe: What other explanations are there?
Paul: Well, the language we used is that after his resurrection, Jesus sat at the right hand of the Father. We did not think so much in the concepts of being as of authority. An emperor might have one “sitting on his right hand.” Like your namesake of old.
Joe: Namesake?
Paul: Joseph. He was made a prime minister at the right hand of pharaoh. He did not sit in pharaoh’s throne, but in whatever he did, he spoke and acted as the pharaoh. Both pharaoh and Joseph were called, properly, “king”, but, ultimately Joseph was under the authority of the emperor. Even so, the Father and Jesus are both “God”, meaning that they both have the authority of ruling the universe, but Jesus is in full submission to the Father. In this understanding, the question of essence never comes up.
Joe: So you are saying that the Nicene Creed is wrong.
Paul: No, no, NO! I am saying no such thing. I am saying that the apostles never asked the question of essence. It is an interesting question that we never thought of and so never addressed. The trinity is a possible truth. Or Arius’ idea is possible—that Jesus was a powerful angel who came to earth. Other ideas are also possible. And it is all speculation.
Joe: So the essence of modern orthodoxy is speculation?
Paul: If you are saying that the essence of modern orthodoxy is the trinity, then yes. I would say, however, that the essence of all Christian orthodoxy is that Jesus is the risen Lord, seated at the right hand of the Father.
Joe: But every Christian believes in the trinity, which you claim to be speculation!
Paul: (Laughing) You have a rather myopic gaze at Christianity, don’t you? Many believe in Arius’ speculation. And I would say that most Christians who belong to a Trinitarian church leave the question of the trinity out of their theology.
Joe: So why did the Nicene council determine that essence is the foundation of Jesus’ divinity?
Paul: Don, do you wish to express an opinion here?
Don: Well, Christian theology isn’t my expertise. However, in my reading, I understand that the whole argument came out of a theological debate between Arius and his bishop. But it seems to me that the real issue wasn’t so much about Jesus essence as much as whether a priest could disagree theologically with his bishop when his bishop—Alexander of Alexandria— commanded him to teach and believe something other than his opinion. Arius rebelled against his bishop, and so it seems that the council was basically rebuking Arius for his unethical behavior.
Joe: So the exiles and wars fought over this issue was all about…
Don: A teaching priest’s rebellion. That’s my opinion. Others would have different opinions.
Joe: So, Paul, since you are the apostle, what should we do about the trinity? Ignore it?
Paul: If some believe in the trinity, that is all for the good. Jesus is honored. And others who glorify Jesus but hold to a different speculation as to the being of Jesus, that is all for the good as well—Jesus is still honored. However, Jesus is not honored by his people, whatever their opinion on this matter, if they destroy each other or accuse each other on this subject. The only problem is if someone says or acts like Jesus is not Lord over themselves. Jesus is your God? Then act like it and love all those who glorify Jesus and live in Him. If you do not live in Jesus, it doesn’t matter how much honor you give him on your lips. You are condemned—not for your theology, but for your lack of Jesus in your life.
Joe: It seems so sad, Paul, that although you make so much sense, that you are willing to land in the midst of heresy, being a reject of the church.
Paul: It wouldn’t be the first time. The sad thing is that the church thinks so much of themselves that if someone decides to remain to just the teaching of the apostles that they are called a heretic. You ever read “The Inquisitor” by the Russian author, Dostoyevsky? Read it sometime. The basic accusation there is if Jesus came to earth today, the church would have to kill him again in order to maintain its authority and “ministry”. This is happening again and again.

Paul and Sex

Paul the apostle, somehow, is in a 21st century university classroom, taking questions about his writings and the times of the New Testament. His friend, Don, a professor at the university, is assisting.

Dale: (A student at the university) So Paul, I notice that in your writing you talk quite a bit about sex.
Paul: Well, it is an important subject in any society.
Dale: (Being forward) Why do you say that?
Paul: How we deal with sex is a matter of purity.
Dale: You mean that there are right and wrong ways of having sex?
Paul: Yes, if you want to speak of it that way. I am sure that everyone in this room believes that.
Dale: (Smirking) You don’t know some of these guys. Let me tell you some of them will…
Don: (Interrupting) Yes, Dale, we see your point. Did you have a question?
Dale: Sure. I want to know, Paul, why are you so repressed about sex?
Paul: Repressed? How? What do you mean?
Dale: I mean that your attitudes about sex are pretty limiting. You spend so much time in your writings talking about sex, about how bad it is. But in our culture, we see sex as just a means of expression, of communication.
Paul: What did I write that makes you think that I am “repressed” about sex?
Dale: Well, for one, you wrote “It is good for a man not to touch a woman.”
Paul: Where did I write that?
Dale: First Corinthians chapter seven.
Paul: Don, can you help me, here?
Don: (Looking up in his Greek New Testament) Got it right here.
Paul: Of course, I wrote these words so long ago, I need to look at the context. (Don hands Paul the book, pointing at a page.) Oh yes. You modern readers are just so lazy.
Dale: What does that mean?
Paul: You must have all of these marks all over the text. In my day, we didn’t even have spaces between the words or smaller letters—uhh, you call them “lower-case” I believe. We just wrote and the reader learned how to interpret the text without it. But now you must have all of these scribbles throughout the text to help interpret for you—(Paul points at the book he is holding) even in the ancient Greek texts! We had no quotation marks, as you do. The quotes had to be determined by the context. All throughout this letter, I am referring to a letter the church at Corinth sent me, and I make many quotes from that letter. Of course, no one today sees the quotation marks and so they think it is I speaking. As if head coverings for women was MY idea!
Dale: You didn’t write that?
Paul: It was an idea of one of the prophets at Corinth. I was just quoting the passage. You see, in my day, we had to figure out what was quotes and what was not by context. You knew a quote was made because it would be corrected or contradicted right after. You should know that I didn’t agree with head coverings because I clearly wrote, “We have no such custom, nor do the churches of God!”
Dale: I’ve never read that.
Paul: Your translators wrote it down wrong, because they were trying to correct the contradiction. But I WANTED to contradict the idea! This passage you mentioned is the same thing.
Dale: “It is good for a man not to touch a woman”?
Paul: Yes. I was quoting the Corinthians. You can know this by reading the statement which contradicts it immediately after: “Because of porneia, each man should have his own woman and each woman her own man. The man should give what is due to the woman…”
Dale: What do you mean by that?
Paul: It means that the moralists at Corinth were wrong! Husbands and wives should have sex—as often as necessary. The reason I give is because of the sexually open society they lived in.
Don: More open than our American 21st century culture?
Paul: In ways. The Greeks didn’t have as much variety in their pornography, but it was available to see in the public forum. Any man who wanted to be satisfied sexually could just partake in certain temple ceremonies and make a small donation. It wasn’t illegal—in fact, for some Greeks it was their pious duty. Of course, you Americans talk much more about sex and focus on it more. And you seem to have two minds about porneia. On the one hand, you protect your children well from perversity. Thus, sex is rarely in a public forum. And adultery is often looked down upon—when a commitment is made, it seems one should keep it. But the fantasies you encourage! As if masturbating while looking at a photo of a sculpted Venus isn’t a form of idolatry! And the persistent exposure of your women. Any man in the ancient world, living in your culture, would constantly be in search of a prostitute, simply by looking at many of your women walking down the street, let alone how they are dressed on your magazines in every food store!
Dale: Do you see what I mean, Paul? That’s a repressed attitude about sex. And sexist.
Paul: How can I both be opposed to sex AND sexist?
Don: “Sexist” means that you promote a male point of view to the degradation of the female point of view.
Paul: How am I this way of being “sexist”?
Dale: You complain about how women dress. They should dress as they like and a man should keep his thoughts to himself.
Paul: Yet you think the thoughts, correct?
Dale: Well, if I see a sexy girl, I might fantasize a bit…
Paul: Is it not natural for a man to be sexually stimulated by a woman who is dressed so “sexy”, as you say?
Dale: Of course, but that doesn’t mean that we should be coming on to every sexy girl we see.
Paul: Of course not. But do not women know that when they are dressing “sexy” that they are encouraging thoughts about sex? Thoughts of adultery, or porneia?
Dale: What is porneia?
Paul: The kind of sex that God is offended by. Incest, sex before marriage, homosexuality…
Dale: I ain’t thinking about a guy when I see a beautiful gal…
Paul: No, no. It is just a kind of porneia. (Looking at the crowd before him) You women, why do you dress “sexy”?
Bette: (Standing up) Look, Paul, we’re not interested in having every man around us be running to the nearest cold shower. We just want to look attractive.
Paul: To look attractive, is that to get attraction? You want people drawn to you?
Bette: Sure. And it’s both women and men. If a woman comes up to me and says I look nice or the dress is cute, I feel good about myself, but I don’t think that I’ve turned her on.
Paul: But if a man says you look beautiful or “sexy”?
Bette: I feel good because someone noticed me. Not because he’s stimulated.
Paul: But you know that you have stimulated him?
Bette: Well, probably, if he says something.
Paul: And perhaps he might fantasize about you?
Bette: Nothing wrong with that, as long as he doesn’t come on to strong for me.
Paul: And if the man feels it is wrong to fantasize about any woman he finds “sexy” that is good, too?
Bette: He should learn to control himself better.
Paul: And you are denying his maleness in saying that. Isn’t your statement “sexist” as well? Look, I am not telling you how to run your society. That is your business. But recognize that with our humanity, it is very difficult, almost impossible for a man to remain pure in a society that glorifies sex.
Dale: But perhaps your code of purity is too regimented.
Paul: This is what you do not understand. It is not my “code”. It is God’s standard of purity. My job, as a pastor and an apostle is to assist people to stand before God to receive God’s blessings. To help them live freely before God without guilt and in pleasure. God, however, has said that the one who partakes in porneia without repenting cannot stand before Him, unless they are repenting. The impure cannot see God. Thus, to help my people remain before God, I must help them find avenues to remain pure in a society that glorifies the impure. And having sex with one’s life partner is one way of remaining pure in this world.
Dale: But don’t you see the contradiction in that? Sex is the answer to keeping free from sex?
Paul: God created sex. Sex is not dirty or impure in and of itself. But God created in sex the seed of commitment. Sex is supposed to build an ongoing relationship. To tear sex away from commitment between a man and a woman is to destroy it. Sex isn’t the problem for God. Porneia is. People who have sex can stand before God. But people who destroy the God-created commitment that is within sex are not pure and so cannot see God.
Don: So sex that is good is…
Paul: Sex that is pure is sex that is used to build commitment to a life-long partner of the opposite sex. (He sighs.) Why do you have so many words based around the word “sex”? It is the immoral fascination with it, or is it just lack of imagination?

Paul and Homosexuality

Paul the apostle, somehow, appears at a 21st century university. After some years of study in English and the New Testament, Paul answers questions in a lecture hall at the university, with his friend, Don, a professor at the university.

Tristan: (A student at the university) Paul, my boyfriend and I have been having this argument, and we were wondering if you could answer it for us.
Paul: (Smiling) Perhaps. However, the modern courting practices are far beyond my level of competence.
Tristan: (Smiling in return) I suspect it might be beyond mine as well. Anyway, Duane says that the idea that homosexuals go to hell was something that Jesus taught and you reflected. I think, however, that you, in your letters must have reflected the culture of your day, but it wasn’t really taught in Jesus. So which was it?
Paul: Well, that is a tricky question. I never said that homosexuals go to hell.
Tristan: (Confused) But I read in Romans…
Duane: (Seated next to Tristan) and First Corinthians…
Paul: I can’t remember everything I wrote, word for word, so long ago. Let me just tell you what I’ve always believed about homosexuals, and then we’ll talk about Jesus, okay?
Tristan: (Still confused) Okay.
Paul: Homosexuality is a sin, just like all other sins. Just like adultery, greed, dissention and gossip. There are times and places that homosexuality can be a horrible sin, such as in the city of Sodom, or in the history of my own tribe, the Benjimites. My fathers tried to used homosexuality to punish the immigrants who happened to pass through their city. Homosexuality can be a very mild sin, such as those who participate in a loving homosexual relationship, such as the patrons in my day who would tutor young men and receive loving sexual favors in return. It was common practice among the Gentiles in my day, and it was not really frowned upon by anyone in our society. Of course, it would never have taken place among Jews, but we recognized that Gentiles had that as a part of their social practice.
Tristan: So… if you believed it was sin, then it could be forgiven?
Paul: Of course it could. There were many people who were practicing homosexuals in my churches. I remember a man in Corinth who was a patron and used to gather young men to tutor them.
Tristan: So people would commit the sin and you would just forgive them and that would be that?
Paul: Not exactly. Homosexuality, like the other sins I mentioned, had to be a part of a person’s past when they came to the Christ. Baptism is a symbol of death. When a person comes to King Jesus, they die—and all of their evil practices die with them. Sin dies at the cross. So the people who were baptized in the church, they would forsake the old practices that characterized them, so they could live in the Christ.
Tristan: People had to forsake their sin on their own, before they came to Jesus?
Paul: No, for some of these practices were too ingrained in people for them to forsake the sins themselves. They needed the help and guidance of the Spirit. Jesus never told anyone, “Just get the sin out of your life.” First he heals them, then he commands them not to return to sin.
Tristan: (Glancing at Duane) Does this mean that we have to be sinless to be in Jesus? I thought he forgave our sin…
Paul: Oh, he does, certainly. But first you must repent of your sin. A person comes into Jesus as a new creation, pure before God, just like Isaiah in front of the throne of God, having the coal touch his lips. In Jesus, we do sin, but we repent of the sin, confess it as sin to our Lord and then we are cleansed again. It is a process, not just a one time event.
Tristan: But I thought you said you had a homosexual in the Corinthian church?
Paul: Yes. He was a homosexual. Then, before his baptism, he forsook the practice, and after baptism the Spirit came and helped him overcome the sin. He never went back to it, as far as I know.
Tristan: So you DO say that homosexuals go to hell.
Paul: That really depends on what you mean. Your word “homosexual” in English means more than I have ever said. I meant that if a person practices homosexuality, they will not be in God’s presence, except to repent. But a repentant homosexual is more pure than an unrepentant miser. As far as who goes to hell, that is God’s choice on the judgment. But it is clear in all the Scripture that a person who commits a homosexual act will not enter God’s presence until they repent in Jesus.
Tristan: Okay. I guess. I don’t really see the difference, though.
Paul: It’s really simple. To say, “Homosexuals go to hell” is to say that God is interested in judging people for making a mistake. That isn’t true, ever. God always has mercy on all people. To say “Homosexual practice is a sin which prevents one from entering into God’s presence,” gives the opportunity for a person to apologize for their error and to do right before God.
Tristan: But if they don’t repent…?
Paul: Then they will never be in God’s presence.
Tristan: Hmm. I’ll have to think about that. But if, as you say, those who practice homosexuality don’t enter into the presence of God…
Paul: If they don’t repent.
Tristan: If they don’t repent—where did you get that idea?
Paul: It is common knowledge to all Jews.
Tristan: Ah, so you got it from your culture!
Paul: But that doesn’t mean Jesus didn’t teach it.
Tristan: Well, did he?
Paul: Let me teach you a Greek word: porneia.
Tristan: Like… porno?
Paul: I suppose porneia became the word pornography in your culture, but it means something different. It is usually translated “sexual immorality” or “fornication” and it is a summary word. It is a word that speaks about every kind of sexual sin. The most complete definition you will find for it is in Leviticus 18. It covers incest, bestiality, homosexuality, having sex with your wife during her bleeding, sex before marriage and others.
Tristan: Okay.
Paul: So Jesus never taught on homosexuality specifically—just as he never taught on incest or sex before marriage. But he did teach on porneia. He said that the one who acted on his thoughts of porneia would be unable to be in God’s presence.
Tristan: Where?
Paul: I am so bad at your numbering system. Let’s see, he said, “Out of the heart come evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, porneias, thefts, false witnesses, slanders—these are the things which make a man unclean.” To be unclean means to be unable to be in God’s presence, even if only temporarily. But the one who lives in this kind of uncleanness will be separated from God for their life.
Tristan: But… Jesus didn’t specifically mention homosexuality.
Paul: But yes, he did. He mentioned porneia, which includes homosexuality—as well as sex before marriage. Many young folks today think that sex without commitment is a good practice, yes?
Tristan: (Glancing again at Duane) Yes, some do.
Paul: Well, that practice also keeps people out of God’s presence, just like homosexuality. They are really the same sin—porneia.
Tristan: It’s not all that bad, is it?
Paul: I wouldn’t know if it was “bad” or not. I am just saying that such a sin puts a wall between the one who practices it and God. But there is good news—Jesus can help you overcome that sin. You can be set free. Just repent, be baptized and have the Spirit make you holy—make you a saint. Then there is nothing that will be a block between you and God.
Tristan: But let’s say that someone doesn’t repent of … porneia? Does that mean that they shouldn’t go to church anymore?
Paul: That really depends. If a person has been baptized and they are a new creature and they develop a lifestyle of porneia after that, and they refused to repent, that would be a problem. They would be open to judgment and punishment at Satan’s hands. Of course, if they repented, then no problem, they could be welcomed back to the church without any bitterness. And if a person has never committed themselves to Jesus through baptism, then of course they are welcome! Jesus always welcomed the sinners, in the hope that they would repent!
Tristan: Thank you, Paul.
Paul: I hope I answered your questions well.
Tristan: Oh, more than that. I’ve—we’ve go things to think about.
Paul: Good. I like helping people think

Paul and Denominations

Setting: A modern-day university classroom. Answering questions is Paul the Apostle, mysteriously appearing in 21st century, about the first century and his opinion of the church today.

Christine: So, I was wondering, Paul, if you were familiar between the differences between Protestants and Catholics.
Paul: Yes. The professor I have been staying with gave me a history of Christianity to read. (He shakes his head). Unbelievable.
Christine: You mean the wars, the injustices that Christians have done?
Paul: All of it. Remember, in the first century, we were just a tiny group—less than a minority, even among the devout Jews. What is called “Christianity” expanded from that group but became much more—and much less—than we could have ever imagined.
Christine: How do you mean, “much less”?
Paul: Well, the church, the gathering of God’s people, was all about Jesus. But the church today—the church throughout the last two thousand years, seems to be about something different.
Christine: But all we talk about is Jesus—his work, his person, his life…
Paul: And you have missed the main point, it seems. Christianity was never a philosophical position. It was never about ontological reality.
Christine: But…
Paul: I know, I know. It IS a philosophical position—one that is quite different than many philosophies that exist today. Honestly, in the ancient days, paganism was never as pagan as the belief systems that exist today. If anyone believed such heresies, they kept quiet about it. Of course, if they did express their opinion that Caesar wasn’t really, ontologically, a god, then they would be killed, and that certainly quieted such philosophies down. Atheism was a crime punishable by death, you know.
Christine: Yes. Christians were called atheists for a time.
Paul: (Thinking for a minute.) Yes. I can see why that is.
Christine: But you were saying that we have less Jesus than in your day. I just can’t see that it is true.
Paul: Well, we didn’t talk less about Jesus than you. But we understood him differently. Jesus today is the same as God the Father—and let’s not quibble about Trinitarianism, I’m not qualified to talk about that. But for us, Jesus was the best expression of God the Father. Not the only one, you understand. All the angels, and even the demons, expressed something about the Spirit world that God the Father created. But Jesus was the one who initiated the war in the heavenly places that we were all participating in. Jesus declared that the way of mercy was a better expression of the Father than the way of judgment. And that only those who lived the way of mercy and purity and peace, as Jesus did, would be able to stand in the day of judgment. Very few Christians talk about the day of judgment or the war in the heavenly places any more.
Christine: Okay… but I’d like to get back to my question.
Paul: Please.
Christine: In your opinion as a first century apostle, which is more accurate—the Protestant church or the Catholic church?
Paul: (Pausing and then chuckling) What a question. Honestly, from my perspective, I can hardly see the difference between them.
Christine: But… the pope… the Eucharist… the saints… the prayers…
Paul: Yes, I am sure that these are significant issues. But none of them are essential. None of them get to the heart of the gospel—the lordship and lifestyle of Jesus. And neither church really comes at the gospel from the perspective of us who lived and died for it in the first century.
Christine: (sneering, disgusted) I knew you couldn’t be the true apostle.
Paul: (smiling) And why do you say that?
Christine: Because you don’t affirm the apostolic doctrine of the church!
Paul: And which church is that?
Christine: The holy, apostolic church, of course.
Paul: Well, no, I do believe I am expressing the original doctrine of the church. The doctrine of Jesus. That is the only doctrine that counts, you know. All other doctrines apart from what Jesus taught are secondary, items to be disagreed about. When we gathered together in our ekklesia, every day of the week, the most important thing we did was to quote Jesus, and to discuss what that meant for us. Today you have sermons, but they aren’t the same thing of what we had. We were the school of Jesus, and we all listened to Jesus’ word and discussed it among ourselves. It was through Jesus that the rest of Scriptures were opened to us and we understood them. It was through Jesus—his life and his word—that our lives were opened and we understood what we have done and were to do. It was through this teaching of Jesus that we understood the life that God wanted us to live. And so all things were centered on what Jesus did and said. Yes, we expressed our personal opinions, and we certainly had heated arguments about things that Jesus did not say. And sometimes we disagreed about what Jesus really meant in a particular teaching. But it was okay, because the rest of the world didn’t have what we had—they didn’t have Jesus. All of these arguments between your denominations are just like the disagreements we had in our churches, except taken to a large scale. And these arguments of yours have replaced the central aspect of the early church—Jesus.
Christine: But, again, we do talk about Jesus. All the time. We take in Jesus in every mass.
Paul: And you walk out of your mass, or worship service, or liturgy, no different. In the early church, we knew our lifestyles were corrupt, and we were looking to be sanctified, to be made holy. We looked to Jesus to be made pure. And how did we look at Jesus? By recounting what he did or said. The words of the Spirit were significant to us, and a part of our lives, but they were all based on the words and life of Jesus. The only Jesus that you have today is the four gospels. And you look at these gospels as something equal to or less than the rest of Scripture. But it was the center of what we understood to be truth. For you, the center of truth is the tradition that your church holds. Whatever your particular doctrinal distinctives you have—that is the basis of your existence. You have taken what is insignificant, and made it the center. The mass isn’t Jesus. The gospel is. The liturgy isn’t Jesus. The gospel is. Speaking in tongues isn’t Jesus. The gospel is. Peacemaking isn’t Jesus. The gospel is. Singing worship to Jesus isn’t Jesus. The gospel is. Your eschatology isn’t Jesus. The gospel is. The pope isn’t Jesus. The gospel is. This doesn’t mean that these other things aren’t important. They are. They are what make up a rich life in the Spirit, to allow different people to share what they have received in the Spirit. But you cannot take these things you have received from the Spirit and replace it as your center. The gospel of Jesus is the center.
Don: Well, Christine left, but I still have a couple questions before we move on to another subject. Are there denominational distinctives that you particularly appreciate?
Paul: Of course. Going to an Orthodox or Catholic service does make me feel at home, because the form of worship is similar to what we had in our churches. And the Messianic Synagogue is also very homey. The Pentecostals are a bit wild for my taste—more reminiscent of a Bacchanalia than a Christian service—but despite my personal opinion their point of view of the spiritual world interacting with today’s world is very much like our point of view. And the healings are wonderful—just how we apostles would go out on the street and heal. The Mennonites and Catholics are great deacons, serving the poor and outcast at great sacrifice to themselves. The Holiness churches do focus on purity, which is good, but they sometimes fall into the errors of judgmentalism or in thinking that the Spirit might somehow just visit purity upon them.
Don: One last thing, Paul. In your opinion, do you think that the denominations are being too divisive?
Paul: Sometimes. For most—not all, but most—denominational distinctives I have the following principles, which I also gave the gatherings in Rome. They had a similar problem—they had many house gatherings, many of which disagreed with other gatherings. So I told them to have their differences of opinion, as long as they did not disagree with the clear teaching of Jesus. There were only two qualifications: First, don’t judge each other. You can disagree with them, but don’t claim that they are less of a believer in Jesus than you. Secondly, don’t use your freedom to exercise your distinctive as an excuse to cause another to sin. If you speak in tongues and you think every spiritual Christian should speak in tongues you might encourage another believer to be deceptive and fake speaking in tongues when they don’t have the gift. Or you might have the freedom to drink, but another brother does not and you encourage them to drink when they shouldn’t. Let other people live in their Spirit-given distinctives.
Don: But what is the difference between a distinctive and a gospel truth?
Paul: Jesus is the arbiter. Look at the gospels and see what He says. He is the only Truth. One other thing. What the Evangelicals have done in getting different denominational groups together to worship the same Lord. That should be pursued—it is what we often did in cities that had many different house groups, gather together to pray on occasion.

Paul and Discrimination

Paul the apostle is at a 21st century university campus, taking questions in a lecture hall.

Samuel: (A divinity student at the university, stands and is recognized) Paul, what do you think is your most important teaching?

Paul: (Looking confused) Why, the gospel of course—That Jesus died on the cross and so opened up the kingdom of God to us all. I wasn’t the first to teach this to you Gentiles, but I, and Timothy and others, did the largest work in the area.

Samuel: Perhaps I could rephrase the question—What do you think is your most important contribution to the church, that is distinct to yourself, apart from Jesus or the other apostles?

Paul: (Thinking for a moment) Well, the most important issue I dealt with, especially in my early years, is preventing discrimination against the Gentiles.

Samuel: What kind of discrimination?

Paul: The main issue was Jewish Christians not eating with Gentile Christians.

Samuel: Like what you wrote in Galatians 2?

Paul: Galatians? Which letter was that?

Samuel: Well, you wrote to the churches in Galatia that Peter and Barnabas separated themselves from the Gentiles and didn’t eat with them when James’ men were there.

Paul: Yes, that is a good example. You see, Cephas was visiting Antioch, which had a mix of Jewish Christians and Gentile Christians. In Antioch, the two groups worshipped together, but they had a very different culture, and so they didn’t… what is the phrase you use? They didn’t “hang out” together. It wasn’t that they didn’t like each other, it’s just they didn’t have much to talk about. Very different people. Cephas made a point of sitting with the Gentiles.

Samuel: So they could feel that he appreciated them?

Paul: No, no—Eating with someone in my world is very important. To eat with someone at the same table is to say that you are brothers with them, family. I suppose you can understand it better if you remember that whoever ate at a table would eat out of the same bowl. So everyone’s fingers and bread would get in everyone else’s food, if you were at the same table. You had to really trust the other people at the table if you ate with them. So Cephas ate with them in order to show that we were all a part of the same family.

Samuel: So when James’ men came…

Paul: Cephas stopped eating with the Gentiles altogether. I suppose the men suggested to Peter that it made him unclean—unfit to worship at the Temple. Which is true. By the law of the time, if one ate with Gentiles, then that one is unclean. There was a ceremony to be clean again, but still, the stigma was there.

Samuel: So Peter was being a hypocrite?

Paul: Well, yes. But that’s not why I was so angry with him at the time. I was angry because he was treating the Gentile Christians as proselytes, as second-rate Christians, not really a part of the true family of Jesus.

Samuel: But, well, weren’t they? I mean, they were pagans, I assume, and then they came to Jesus, so they were newcomers, right?

Paul: You are as ignorant as Cephas! Don’t you see? We were ALL proselytes! All of us are immigrants to a nation not of our making. No matter whether we had been in the Temple, or even a priest, when we came to Jesus, we were all newcomers! Jesus was the only one who was in the family of God, and he accepted us through faith. So what right did Cephas—and Barnabas too—have to treat the Gentiles as less citizens of the kingdom of God than they were? We were all there by God’s grace, none of us had the right to be there, but God allowed us to enter anyway. Yes, the Jews received the gospel first, and some Jews—Galileans, really—were the first to have faith in Jesus. But there is no line to divide those in the kingdom from those who barely made it in, by the skin of their teeth. None of us deserved to eat at that table, to be a part of the family of God. None of us were born into it, or were naturally accepted into it. Only Jesus’ death made it possible for us to receive it. I wrote a long letter to Rome on this subject.

Samuel: Romans? Isn’t that about the gospel—how we are all saved?

Paul: Yes, yes, but most importantly it was about how the Gentiles deserved salvation as much as the Jews did. That there were no special privileges. That Jews and Gentiles needed to learn how to work together in the kingdom of God, and one group couldn’t put themselves above the other. Surely a hypocrite doesn’t have a greater privilege before God than an open sinner—they are all sinners. Just because one knew God’s will and the other did not doesn’t make one really different than the other.

Don: (A professor at the university) If I could interrupt for a moment…

Samuel: Of course.

Don: Paul, do you see this issue in today’s church as well?

Paul: The most heinous crime along these lines has already been dealt with—or at least the beginning is there. The treatment of some ethnic groups as less spiritual or blessed than others.

Don: Racism. Martin Luther King Jr. opened the eyes of many of us to that.

Paul: And in doing so, he was only continuing my ministry. Do you know that most of the time I spoke about Gentiles I used the word, “ethnoi”—the other ethnic groups. To discriminate against any ethnic group is to do the same as the Pharisaic group commanding the Gentiles to become Jews—it is ugly and an affront to Jesus who died for all people, and welcomes all people equally.

Don: Are there other areas in which we discriminate and we don’t even see it?

Paul: There are two ways that I’ve noticed. The first is nationalism. When we talked about Jews and Gentiles, it was less a racial difference than a national one. Frankly, anyone, from any nationality could become Jewish. Sure, if you were a pagan and you wanted to be a Judean you would be a proselyte for the rest of your life—but your children would be full Jews, even if ethnically they were Greek or African. The real argument we were having is what nation we were to belong to. I argued, successfully at the time, that the only nation we really belonged to was the kingdom of God, and that all nationalities were marginalized because of the act of Jesus—even the Jewish nation.

Don: So what does that have to do with today’s church?

Paul: Frankly, it has to do with much of today’s church in the United States. Simply because the U.S. is the latest imperial power to come around the block—just another form of Babylon—that does not mean that it has been more privileged by God than any other nation. And for so much of your American church to treat the U.S. as if it were the kingdom of God itself is just…appalling.

Don: No pun intended?

Paul: What? Anyway, I have read some Christians speak of the U.S. in the most glowing terms, honoring it above any other country in the world, but it is just as sinful and destructive as any other nation that has ever existed. And others treat this so-called nation of Israel as a special nation as well. This, even though they refuse to acknowledge God in their government. Should a single priest be alive today, they would proclaim that calling that nation “Israel” is a heresy! At least they didn’t name themselves Judea, the home of Zion and the Temple. By itself, the nation isn’t much of an offense—they do not claim to be God’s chosen people as a nation. But some Christians call that nation the kingdom of God, as if it were Judea risen again! It is no such thing—and even if it were, that is the very thing I was fighting against. Treating a nation in this age as if it were the kingdom of God, which is only in Jesus, who sits at the right hand of the Father, even today!

Don: (Trying to calm Paul down) Okay…

Paul: (Interrupting) Wait, I’m not done. As I said, in our day some did not eat with their own brothers because they were of a different nationality. But today, many of you will not eat with your brothers simply because they act differently or dress differently or hold to a different opinion than yourselves. Should a homeless man come into your church, do you welcome him, or wish that he would go away? If a person with a mental illness makes a “joyful noise to the Lord” in your house, do you ask her to leave? If a sincere follower of Jesus, who happens to be a Jehovah’s Witness or whatever other group you dislike, would you fellowship with them, or simply try to “convert” them? Stop treating your brothers and sisters as if they were people who didn’t belong in the church! As if they weren’t really citizens, as much as you are!

Don: How do you think we could stop our discrimination between family members?

Paul: First of all, stop treating some sins as unforgivable. Homosexuality, sexual immorality, drunkenness or even racism aren’t worse sins than greed, gossip or hypocrisy. They are all forgiven in Jesus through faith and repentance. And if someone has been a Christian for years and years, if they refuse to repent of their sin, then they are as dead in their sins as they began. Also, we need to treat all Christians as brothers and sisters, no matter how strangely they act. This means taking time to worship, fellowship and eat with brothers and sisters whom we wouldn’t usually associate with.

Don: Are you saying that we should all be a part of one church?

Paul: No, no. The differences in worship and teaching and cultures are wonderful—glorious, in fact. My fondest dream come true. But at times—not usually, but sometimes—we need to be with others who are not like us and treat them as family. We need to eat with the homeless, to worship with different ethnic groups, to take the Lord’s supper with the mentally ill—all in Christ, all as brothers and sisters.

Paul and the Spiritual Body

Don, a professor of Old Testament literature is in his home, having a discussion with Paul the apostle, who—somehow—is visiting from the first century.

Don: One thing that has always confused me, Paul, is the phrase “spiritual body.” What could that possibly mean?

Paul: (Pulling out his New Testament in Greek) Ummm, where is that?

Don: I Corinthians 15… verse 44.

Paul: (Thumbing through pages) Your English is so confusing. What is “First Corinthians”? Of course, I understand, it is supposed to be the first letter I wrote to the Corinthians. What the scholars wouldn’t give to obtain the Real first letter I wrote to the Corinthians. It said, “Stephanos, tell Timothy to come to me as soon as he is able.” That was all. I don’t know which letter this is, but it certainly isn’t the first. Ah, here we are. Oh, yes. (Paul shakes his head.) Those Corinthians. Mind you, it wasn’t all of them. Most of them were simple Christians—as if anything was simple in those days! Every correction I made had to be corrected three more times before a balance was reached! So, anyhow, a group of the Corinthians believed that once we die, it was simply a life in the realm of the spirit. Nothing else.

Don: You mean, they believed that when they die, they went to heaven?

Paul: Not just that. They believed that living in “heaven,” as you say, is all that there was. I couldn’t really blame them. Most people in the world believed the same thing in that day.

Don: Most people believed that when they died they went to heaven?

Paul: Well, they might define “heaven” differently from one another, but that’s pretty much correct. Most would have called it “hades” and it was the home that the souls of all people went to after they died. While there were descriptions of hades as a place with flame and torture, that was only one section of it reserved for the most evil of society. Most people certainly assumed that they would go to the other side of hades, “paradise” or, as you say, “heaven.”

Don: But isn’t heaven where God lives?

Paul: That’s how I used the language—heaven is the abode of God and the powers under God’s control, angels. I note, however, in the books you gave me that heaven is sometimes seen as a good place where the dead go. In our ancient idea, we called that place “hades” and God didn’t live there.

Don: So, you Christians didn’t believe that the good go to live with God after death.

Paul: Well, in a way. The souls of those attached to Jesus abide with Jesus, and we pray to him. But we never considered that “living”. That’s death. That certainly wasn’t our hope. Again, that group of Corinthians were content with that—souls living with God. But that’s like going before Caesar with no clothes on! (Paul shivers) Oh, I could just imagine facing down Nero like that!

Don: You met Nero?

Paul: Briefly. Just before my head was taken off.

Don: What was he like?

Paul: Imperial. Magnificent. He put on a brilliant show of power. He certainly had his court eating out of his hand. But his core was rotten.

Don: I’m really getting off the subject. I wanted to know about the phrase “spiritual body”?

Paul: Oh, yes, of course. I wrote “soma pneumatikon”. Same thing in the translation, but it’s that word “spirit” that I have so much trouble with.

Don: Why? You used it so much.

Paul: No, I used “pneuma” so much. Your English word “spirit” really means something different. You mean by a “spirit” something ethereal, not physical, like a gas, which is sometimes invisible. But for us, a “spirit” is something physical, just otherworldly.

Don: A “spirit” is physical?

Paul: Yes. For instance, you certainly know the story of Elisha and the army of Aram, yes? He could see the army of angels surrounding them, but they could not. So they were invisible. But when they blinded all of those soldiers, they were physical, in some sense, were they not? They were physical in some way, but their physicalness operated in a different way than ours does. Otherworldly, but still physical. And in my day, we called the angels “spirits”—otherworldly beings.

Don: I still don’t understand how “spiritual” could be “physical.”

Paul: It would be much better, in this context, if “spiritual” could be translated “otherworldly” or “cosmological” rather than “spiritual.” There was a group in the ancient world who used the term “pneuma” or “spirit” as you do today. They were called Platonists—followers of Plato, the lover of wisdom. Very small minority in the ancient world. He had so many crazy ideas, you know. Anyway, Plato and his followers divided reality between the spiritual and the physical, and the two ideas, to them, were completely inseparable. The realm of the spirit could not exist with the realm of the physical. But for most of us—whether Greek or Jew—we accepted the constant interrelationship of the spiritual and physical.

Don: But didn’t you say that the spirit could not co-exist with the flesh?

Paul: The flesh? Do you think that means the physical? Of course not. Jesus was completely caught up with the Spirit, but he was all physical, all human. The Spirit is that which comes from the other world by God to lead us in His way, so we can be completely spiritual. To live in the flesh is to live caught up in the structure and livelihoods of this world, with no real regard to the other world, where God reigns without limit. So the two ways of living I was contrasting in my letter to Rome was a life focused on the world of Jesus—the spirit, or a life focused on the world we currently live in—the flesh. Being physical or not physical has nothing to do with it. Giving your last food to the poor is very physical, but very otherworldly.

Don: So a “spiritual body” is just an otherworldly body?

Paul: Right. The resurrection works like this: Our this-world body is taken and it is transformed into an other-worldly body, operating on the physical rules of the spirit world.

Don: And Jesus had a spiritual body like this?

Paul: Yep. (Is that right? Yep is used for “yes” sometimes, right?)  This is why you can read that Jesus could just appear or disappear in rooms filled with people. When I saw Jesus…

Don: Well, didn’t you just have a vision of Jesus?

Paul: No, it wasn’t a vision! This is why I was the last of the initial group of apostles, because I was the last to see Jesus face to face and be sent by him. I saw the real, physical Jesus on my way to Damascus. I could hear his breath and he moved the ground beneath him. Anyway, when I saw him, he was bright, like one of your electric lights, but my companions couldn’t see him at all. Completely otherworldly. A truly spiritual experience.

Don: So what was wrong with the Corinthian idea? Didn’t they believe in a spiritual existence?

Paul: Not spiritual, non-physical. They believed that the Christian hope was sufficient without having otherworldly bodies. Completely untrue! The Christian hope is not just living in heaven! If that is all it was, then I wouldn’t want it. I suppose if that’s all God gave me after death, that would be alright, but I would be gravely disappointed.

Don: Nice pun.

Paul: An ancient form of poetry, you know.

Don: Yep. So, anyway, Paul, what is the basis of the Christian hope?

Paul: Resurrection! Being raised in new, otherworldly bodies like Jesus was. Also, living to rule this world so we can create a world of justice and love, just like Jesus rules in heaven beside Abba Pater right now. That would make this world a part of the spirit world, but now it is all carnal, in rebellion against God’s ways. But we Christians don’t want just this half-life, some non-physical existence. That isn’t any real life. Real life is physical and spiritual. And God promises us this, for all the next age. But only if we are in King Jesus.

Related to this post is another blog, A Platonic Christian Worldview

What's Up With This Site?


Somehow, Paul—complete with ancient garb and a perfect knowledge of Koine Greek— arrives in a 21st century university and he lives with an Old Testament scholar, Don Lueth, who is not too certain if this strange man is actually Paul or if he is a brilliant NT scholar who somehow believes he is Paul. Over three years, Don taught Paul English and gEventually, Paul’s insight on NT literature causes a set of informal lectures and q and a sessions on the university campus in Lueth’s main classroom. These are attended by religion students at the university, as well as history majors and extremist religionists of every stripe.

Paul’s demeanor is light and generally pleasant. He is often befuddled by modern mindsets, especially concerning the variety of opinions of the ancient letters of Paul and about Jesus. For the most part he takes everything in good humor, but he does get angry when people try to tell him what a text in a Pauline letter means in disagreement with himself.