- A Parody
To: Paul of Tarsus, Imperial Prison System
We hope you are well, despite being in prison. (Perhaps you will head our prison fellowship project when you are released.) We missed you at the last meeting of the General Assembly in Philadelphia. It was, as usual, a wonderful experience; we finished our business in record time and had a few days to do some fly-fishing. Too bad you were detained.
We have received a complaint from the Church at Corinth about your letter in which you criticize some of the brothers there for teaching that there is no resurrection. Their complaint is the most recent to be referred to the General Assembly by the Presbytery of Philadelphia. As you recall, the churches at Rome, Galatia, and Colosse have also complained about your letters.
The Complainants from Corinth feel that your attempts to draw out logical implications from their sincerely held views about the resurrection evince a spirit of rationalism and an uncharitable attitude that is improper for a Christian, especially an Apostle. They are concerned that you seem to think that your logic and God’s logic are the same. The tone of your letter, they say, is one of arrogant rationalism that delights in embarrassing those who disagree with you over a relatively minor matter.
We also received from the Church in Corinth a copy of your letter (please consult with our Committee on Communications in Rome before you send any more letters to churches), and after having discussed it in Subcommittee and Committee, we are inclined to agree with the Complainants. Your language about the resurrection is insensitive, but perhaps with the assistance of a good editor, the letter might have been made acceptable to all.
God’s revelation contains great mysteries, Paul, and your letter, particularly the paragraphs about the resurrection, does not adequately appreciate the incredible spiritual richness of the Gospel, a richness that is not comprehensible to our mere human faculties. Faith, Paul, must curb our merely human logic, for our logic is not God’s logic. Remember what the prophet Isaiah wrote: God’s ways are not our ways, and God’s thoughts are not our thoughts. The gentlemen in Corinth were particularly hurt by your arguments that if there is no resurrection, then it follows that Christ is not risen, that your own preaching is false, and that their dear departed friends and families are lost. This last statement is most insensitive and un-Christlike.
The Corinthians believe none of these things, of course; they believe only that there is no resurrection. By their humble acceptance of paradoxes, they show that they understand that mere human logic is of no use in theology, that we are not to use our fallen reason to understand or defend our faith, and that we are to humbly bow before those paradoxes that cannot be reconciled before the bar of human reason. Christianity is an experiential religion, Paul, not a verbal, logical, or intellectual religion. Gnosticism is our worst enemy. Christianity is not based on knowledge, but on faith. Knowledge puffs up, but experience humbles. You simply cannot say things like, “If there is no resurrection, then Christ is not raised.” That is human, not divine, logic. As an Apostle, you especially should know that God’s knowledge and the knowledge possible to man do not coincide at any single point. To think that they do is to suppose that you have a wor d from God - an arrogant and rationalist attitude on your part.
Since this is not the first complaint against you, Paul, this Committee, after careful deliberation, has decided to ask you to:
- Cease writing harsh letters to the churches. If you feel you must write, keep your letters positive and upbeat, encouraging and edifying. Avoid criticism and negativism. You can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.
- Apologize to the churches you have offended by your rationalism and offer to work with them in advancing our common message, God’s wish that all men be saved. We have taken the liberty of drafting several letters for your signature.
- When you are released from prison, meet with this Committee so that we may discuss some of the ideas that you have been teaching that seem contrary to the mysteries of our faith and your future role as an Apostle.
In addition, we have heard that you are not a graduate of an approved seminary, having studied at some place called The Wilderness. We must refer this matter to the Committee on Pastoral Credentials, and you should be hearing from them soon.
We hope you can come to General Assembly next year, Paul, Caesar willing. We are holding it in Corinth as part of our church-wide program to increase our awareness of and appreciation for other religions. Your absences in the past seem to indicate a lack of interest in or concern for the work of the church, but we are confident that this is not the case.
Andre L immelman