Saturday, August 9, 2008

The gospels and Paul

The beloved Irenaeus of Lyon once said that 'since the 'pillar and ground' of the Church is the Gospel and the spirit of life, it is fitting that she should have four pillars, breathing incorruption on every side, and vivifying human afresh.'

In the mores and practice of todays Evangelical church, could it not rightly be observed that these 'four pillars' have been removed, placed in the back corner of the temple and only noticed by the glint and shadow of the thirteen or so epistles written by the apostle Paul?

Test yourself. As I write these words a grounded reacton rises up within my own being, a loaded question," Dare you say that the Gospels are greater than the epistles?" Which proves my own point; we dare to stand by the epistles if the two are to be balanced, held in light together and examined.

I am, of course, making no such statement. I affirm that the same Spirit who breathes and breathed life into the gospels does the same impartially to the epistles of Paul. The Word of God is the Word of God without division. But if such is the case, and it indeed is, why are we dishonoring our own theology of scripture by materially rejecting the gospels in favor of Pauls writing? In most any sermon I have attended in my life, the exposition (sorry, the lack of exposition) was always geared towards the apostolic writings. Theologians and Christian authors, to favor themselves among the orthodox use terms like 'Pauline' or 'Paulist' to fit their practice and belief, thus negating everything Paul stood against and chastised in the first book of Corinthians chapter one. Is Christ divided?

Who came to deliver the message, Christ or Paul? Who is a servant of the other? And is any servant greater than his master? If you took time to read the gospels, you might know the answer to that question. Paul was the chief expositer and administer of the grace of God... but Christ IS the grace of God. What a shame and dishonor to Pauls own calling that we take on his own name rather than the name of Jesus Christ.

Part of the reason for this title is a reaction to followers of Christ who see differently than evangelicals and fundamentalists. Mennonites, for example, who stress above all else the cost of discipleship based on the foundational text of the Sermon on the Mount, are typically scorned as heterodox when the observer would juxtapose himself as a Paulist. It is reported that Scofield (chief forerunner of fundamentalism) negated most everything that Christ said as no longer applicable to this day and age. Whether or not this is true, his dispensationalist followers conveniently placed the words of Christ under the covenant of law, thus stripping them of any bearing or authority over us, who are under Pauline grace. (some of course, have reacted to this blasphemy such as our beloved brother in the faith John Macarthur).

If grace and truth did indeed come from Christ, as John asserts in his prolegomena, and the law from Moses, wouldn't that be sufficient to obliterate that faulty idea altogether?

I humbly (and oddly, with pride) suggest that we balance out this centuries old problem by returning to the Christology of our Mennonite forefathers in dealing with scripture, by once again preaching the Sermon on the Mount, and the hard sayings of Christ in church. This would no doubt bless the heart of Paul, who counted all as rubbish for the sake of His master and the call set before him.

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