Why the ad hominem attack on Paul?

We’ve been discussing the concept of “Jesus vs Paul” or “the gospels vs the epistles.” There’s one other observation that I want to make, even though I doubt it will be a popular one. Who is trying to demote Paul’s theology to second class? That is, who wants the words of the epistles to carry less weight than they traditionally have?

In my experience, this view is promoted by basically two groups, who share a common argument (though they rarely admit it). In churches of Christ, it’s primarily those who hold to an egalitarian view. In Christianity at large, it’s also those who no longer see homosexual behavior as a sin.

I rarely hear people saying, “Jesus emphasized baptism more than Paul did; I take Jesus much more seriously.” Seldom is the argument: “Jesus taught a works-based justification while Paul emphasizes grace; I take Jesus much more seriously.” (And yes, those claims are debatable… like the idea that Jesus promoted egalitarianism more than Paul did.)

I’m very open to correction on this point. Feel free to point me to people who are de-emphasizing Paul for reasons other than the ones I’ve mentioned. My experience is naturally limited.

For now, I’m very uncomfortable with any attempt to not take a biblical writer seriously, especially one who wrote as much as Paul did. Yes, many have over-emphasized Paul in the past, many have stripped his words of all context, many have built ridiculous arguments based on proof texts. But none of that calls for us to demote apostolic teaching to a second tier.

2 thoughts on “Why the ad hominem attack on Paul?

  1. Dan Lawrence

    I believe that there may be other groups/individuals that are more passively drawn to the Jesus-words-are-more-important-than-Paul school of thought just because it sounds convincing on the surface. A particular example is the exclusive emphasis of the greatest commands 1) love God 2) love your neighbor. Since all the law and prophets hang on them, once you know these two then there’s no need to read the bible further or you risk falling into legalism… or so the argument goes.

    The irony is the gospels were written by men (I believe inspired men) just like Paul. And chronologically the gospels were written decades later than some of Paul’s earliest writings if that makes any difference.
    In the end, the whole of the inspired writings, humbly interpreted and applied appropriately, should make up God’s word to us, O.T. and all. Even the uncomfortable parts. God bless!

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