Reviewing Paul’s Letters

I’m currently working back through my book on Paul’s Letters, updating and clarifying some things. A couple of items stick out.

Sovereignty — It’s not Calvinism. Calvin was hardly the first to notice that God is sovereign; Luther wrote a book about it that Lutherans refuse to read. You can find more obscure references from earlier times. The point is that Paul flatly asserts it in Romans 9, and he does not differentiate between eternal destiny and earthly existence. Paul cites several well-known examples of people God destined before birth to face His wrath. He doesn’t have to explain Himself to any of us. I wrote:

We may well argue about what the term "divine sovereignty" means, but trying to dodge the implication is blasphemous — it reduces God from His own lofty revealed self-portrayal. You can’t make Paul say something he didn’t say in this chapter. The key to understanding predestination is embracing it as a personal truth, as the choice of God to reclaim you individually from the flood of damnation rushing down to Hell. To see it as some impersonal principle is blasphemous, just as objectifying the Law was blasphemous. Jesus was the Law personified, and His own nation rejected Him. They rejected the Law as surely as they closed themselves off from its ultimate purpose.

And in the first few chapters of 1 Corinthians Paul completely destroys the very thing most Western churches do today by mimicking the secular “professional standards” for staffing and using similar guidelines for organizing and running the church operations. They insist there has to be something concretely verifying progress and success so humans who care nothing about God can measure it. Why do we care about their opinions; why do we live as though mere human approval mattered at all? Do these religious leaders imagine that somehow those secular standards are something they control?

This is all based on some false assumption that there could even be such a thing as a “Christian nation.” One more time: “My Kingdom is not of this world,” said Christ. All systems of human government in actual existence (forget your pretty theories) are uniformly damned. True, America was at one time an Enlightenment nation, but it was never a Christian nation for even one second, because the Enlightenment was heathen to the very core. When your fundamental assumptions about reality — when your epistemology — starts with human-centered reason, you cannot pretend it arose from revelation.

Today’s Western Christianity stands condemned by the Bible it waves at everyone.

About Ed Hurst

Disabled Veteran, prophet of God's Laws, Bible History teacher, wannabe writer, volunteer computer technician, cyclist, Social Science researcher
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12 Responses to Reviewing Paul’s Letters

  1. Iain says:

    How right you are. My wife’s cousin is an America’s a Christian nationer. I take entirely too much pleasure in pointing out his ignorance. I think the fun part is the fact that the truth of America’s founding philosophy makes absolutely no affect on the fellow’s opinion. Which illustrates another truth, people prefer myths.

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  2. steven says:

    Sovereignty isn’t Calvinism, but Sovereignty = Predestination/Fatalism is Calvinism. I don’t believe in Inerrancy (even if the Inspiration was Divine, the writters were men), less in Exegetical Literalism. As Max Weber noticed there are 3 kinds of theodicy: Predestination, Dualism, Karma. Western Christianity evolved from dualism to predestination through 4 phases: Gnosticism > Catholicism > Lutheranism > Calvinism. In contrast, Eastern Christianity has no need for theodicy.

    Luther wrote a lot of contradictory things. For ex, Luther assumptions lead logically to antinomianism, yet Luther wrote against it because he feared to lose the protection of the german nobility if some kind of christian anarchism arises. In every lutheran country the State has subdued the Church thanks to Luther servility.

    Calvin was a faustian man who tried to reconstruct magian christianity by himself. Ironically calvinistic fatalism resembles magian antichristianity (islam), the God of calvinism is Allah masquerading as Christ. Calvin just finished the work of Augustine, Aquinas and Luther (the Disenchantment of the World, a trademark of Western Civ).

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  3. Ed Hurst says:

    Steven wrote: Sovereignty isn’t Calvinism, but Sovereignty = Predestination/Fatalism is Calvinism.

    That’s true of “Sovereignty” as a doctrine, but not sovereignty as the moral truth that God is Creator and has been known to remake His Creation on-the-fly to suit His inscrutable purposes.

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  4. Ed Hurst says:

    Steven wrote: I don’t believe in Inerrancy (even if the Inspiration was Divine, the writers were men), less in Exegetical Literalism.

    This is a separate issue requiring a separate response. I regard Scripture is indisputable. The other terms (inerrancy, infallibility, etc.) are loaded with baggage I refuse to carry. It is a matter of conviction for me that an essential mark of the Holy Spirit’s presence is that one does not argue with Scripture, only about it. We can be friends, but I cannot regard you as a brother in faith.

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  5. steven says:

    “This is a separate issue requiring a separate response. I regard Scripture is indisputable. The other terms (inerrancy, infallibility, etc.) are loaded with baggage I refuse to carry. It is a matter of conviction for me that an essential mark of the Holy Spirit’s presence is that one does not argue with Scripture, only about it. We can be friends, but I cannot regard you as a brother in faith”

    Lets me clarify before judging me, please:

    I believe the Infallible Holy Spirit inspired Scripture, but were fallible men who wrote the Bible, so there can be misinterpretations, mistranslations and non-essential errors in the letter. I simply follow 2 Corinthians 3:6: the Spirit is above the letter. Thats why I put my mystical vision (the Angel of the Presence, who in my pagan ignorance I called “the Light of Perfect Beauty” and “the Perfect Being”) above exegetical literalism (bibliolatry, which treats the Bible as muslim treat their Quran: as a kind of Inlibration). Jesus in Matthew 20:36-40 gave us the key of exegesis, which implies rejecting pharisaic literalism. Scripture says the mark of the Holy Spirit isn’t belief in Sola Scriptura and Predestination, but in Christ and the Gospel (1 John 4:2-3, Romans 10:9).

    I hope after this you are able to call me brother. If not, I will accept your friendship (if its true, please don’t offer me your friendship only to be polite).

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  6. Ed Hurst says:

    Steven, this is not a matter of judgment; it’s a matter of conviction. All I can do is point out the limits by which I live. You must follow your own convictions and I certainly insist you do so. Nor is it mere etiquette to say we are certainly friends. This is rather like a covenant of peace between people who cannot walk the same path. Who can say where our Father takes us from here? You are welcome to keep commenting here and I reiterate that I want others to have a chance to see your ways and discern for themselves.

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  7. steven says:

    Ed, I think you don’t understand why I’m so hurt. To me, when you said that because I’m skeptical to Predestination I don’t have the Holy Spirit, you were implying that I’m not a true christian, but a self-deceived friendly heathen whose soul is as hellbound as Anton LaVey. You also hastily concluded that I argue with Scripture simply because I’m skeptical to literalism. Maybe I was blasphemously rude when I said “the God of calvinism is Allah masquerading as Christ” (an edgy, hyperbolic statement). Forgive me if I offended you, as an aspie sometimes I don’t realize how nasty I can be. You claim true christians can’t argue with Scripture, but God is above Scripture, yet Abraham (Genesis 18:16-32), Moses (Exodus 32:9-14), Hezekiah (2 Kings 20:1-11) and Mary (John 2:1-12) argued with God, and weren’t punished for it. If I’m not a true christian you have no reason to take me seriously when I argue about theology, as heathens can’t understand spiritual things (1 Crotinthians 2:14).

    Off topic: In tmoc you say “We are also not interested in personal credit or copyrights. If this message appeals to you enough you want to use it, then it becomes your message, too. Use it as you see fit”, in the-cult you say “While this is not a public domain document, you are free to make copies, use excerpts and express the ideas in your own words. I should hope you’d cite this document as your source, but your conscience is the only enforcement mechanism”, yet in ot-hist you say “People of honor need no copyright laws; they are only too happy to give credit where credit is due. Others will ignore copyright laws whenever they please. If you are of the latter, please note what Moses said about dishonorable behavior”. How can you claim that you aren’t interested in copyrights, that my conscience is the sole enforcer, when you implicitly cast a curse on those who ignore copyright laws? I usually don’t cite my sources, because unless I just copypaste someone topic I regard it as my work, even if from the modern western viewpoint I’m a “pirate”.

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  8. Ed Hurst says:

    Steven wrote: To me, when you said that because I’m skeptical to Predestination I don’t have the Holy Spirit, you were implying that I’m not a true christian,

    You bring binary thinking to the question, and read things into what I wrote. It seems you assume I have some choice, as if reason could change things. I do not say you don’t have the Holy Spirit; I indicate how I recognize His Presence. That doesn’t mean He’s not there, but that I can’t be sure. So instead of having some affirmation that quiets the question, it remains an open question that is not for me to judge. It’s not a question of absolute truth, but what I am able to do — I can’t endorse your views. I’m not too comfortable either, but you are mistaken if you read it as rejection. I can live with the tension. Do your question not imply that you feel I need some correction? I’m not taking your barbs personally; can you not return the favor? If I am wrong about this, you can trust God to change my convictions. If I am right, it would be wholly irresponsible not to warn you. And vice versa. You and I both are obliged to speak the truth as we know it, doing so in love. I do wish it was possible to transmit warmth in words, but not everyone is going to read it that way.

    You can discern flaws in the reasoning of Protestant theologians, but I depart from their ideas while clinging to the Scriptures they used. Rather than waste a lot of time writing a heavy tome showing in detail how I differ from them, I simply stay with the Scripture and leave out all the reasoning. I find it unnecessary to defend the Scripture and explicate all the rational implications as those men did. That’s the attitude I see in Christ and the Apostles. This hardly arises from a typical Protestant literalism; that’s something I consistently condemn. Then I demonstrate how I read it from an ANE approach that avoids letting the intellect draw the boundaries.

    As for the examples you cite where it seems there is a common thread of arguing with God, each of those comes in a context, with varying protocols, and are not all the same thing. Abraham was interceding using an established protocol found in other Mesopotamian literature. He was probing the limits of mercy, showing that God was a real Person willing to make compromises on things that aren’t critical to His decisions. The line Abraham drew didn’t change the outcome. However, the context tells us that when his wife Sarah wondered aloud if God could do what He said, she crossed the line and expressed a sarcastic contempt for God’s claims, thinking He wouldn’t hear.

    We could say the same for Moses’ use of Semitic hyperbole as with Abraham’s intercession; it was a courtly protocol of his time seen in other places. The prayer of Hezekiah was another example of pleading for mercy according to Semitic protocols and persuading God to change His plans. Mary didn’t argue with God, but respectfully asked a valid question based on her ignorance of what God could do.

    Have you not noticed that I still take your questions seriously, even long after I noted that you were on a path I couldn’t endorse? I pointed out that your preference for Orthodox beliefs was not for me, but there’s no reason to treat you as an enemy. Would it make a difference if we met in the flesh? Aspies aren’t fond of hugs, so I’m not sure I could convey my genuine warmth any better than to let you comment and reply. Stick around if you can bear it, but please don’t assume my notification of boundaries as poking at you personally. Maybe you can’t imagine it, but I’m not easily offended, and don’t respond to it as most people I know. The few folks I’ve actually blocked here had nothing to do with personal offense but that handling their disputes interfered with the purpose of the blog. You are not a problem for me.

    As for the varying copyrights, that depends on the context. The TMOC book was collaborative and impossible to copyright. The copyright notice on the rest of my stuff is actually a cynical poke at the laws. I need no law enforcement; God is watching. There is no implied curse, unless you understand “curse” from the biblical perspective, which is different from Western mythology. Curses only work if they agree with God’s character. The few who have commented on that copyright notice think it’s pretty classy. Your conscience is the enforcement mechanism; cite or don’t cite, but I’m not going to come after you with human laws.

    I wish I could prevent you from misreading what’s behind my words, but that’s beyond my talents. I can’t make you know what’s in my head. I have to trust God to speak to you on that.

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  9. steven says:

    Fair enough, Ed. I misunderstood you. For me “brother” means “christian”, while for you “brother” means “christian of my denomination”. Thats why I thought you were demoting me from “brother” to “friend” as punishment for my barbs.

    I had no intent of being mean, less blasphemous. Notice it took me a day to realize that my barbs are barbs. If you were a dualist, I would have said you “the God of gnosticism is Ormuzd masquerading as Christ”, an obvious playful hyperbole. I was sleepy when I wrote it, also.

    Correction? I believe in friendly exchange and ecumenical influence, not in hierarchical “correction”. If Lutheran-Calvinistic Predestination is essential for you, fine. If someday you change to Gnostic-Catholic Dualism, fine. Orthodoxy doesn’t need a Theodicy, a trait I haven’t seen in any other religion. Of course, I can’t force you to share my views, neither I want to do such a wicked thing.

    I won’t argue your exegesis of these verses, but Jesus Himself gave us an example of Our Father Character in the Parable of the Prodigal Son. Picture an ancient father whose teenage son demands his inheritance to go whoring. Instead of whipping the wicked youth, the father gives him what he ask for, then forgives him when the youth repents. Thats why when I hear some calvinists say “if you don’t hate God you aren’t going to a biblical church” , I know they lie. Anyone who portraits God as a Cosmic Tyrant is a Satan mouthpiece.

    Copyrights: I don’t fear that you come after me with human laws, but that you ask God to punish me if I don’t cite you, as you regard this “dishonorable” behaviour as a sin, despite I’m not actually a plagiarist as I don’t copypaste but take ideas from many sources to write my own topics.

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  10. Ed Hurst says:

    Steven wrote: Copyrights: I don’t fear that you come after me with human laws, but that you ask God to punish me if I don’t cite you…

    I don’t bother checking if anyone is stealing my material. I write it for God and He’s the one who decides. Pray for people to be punished? I don’t even think that way.

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  11. steven says:

    I’m not stealing you, Ed. I just have a loose concept of intellectual property. It goes both ways, so I won’t call you a thief if you “steal” some of my ideas.

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  12. Ed Hurst says:

    I share your loose concept; I just say it differently.

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