Paul

Last night I ended up in bed early reading (trying to read) 1st Timothy and finding myself told off, condemned and generally rebuked by what Paul was saying compared to some of the things I had been saying in those last few posts.

But then the feelings of anger and frustration started bubbling up as I just don’t like the tone of the letter on first reading. To be honest my initial thought was ‘Who is this man to be telling me what to do?’

Of course Paul was telling Timothy what he should be doing but some of those things do seem like general commands Paul tells everyone to do.

And that is the whole problem.
Here we have a man, writing personal letters to individuals like Timothy 2000 years ago yet we have to take it in faith that when Paul says something to Timothy in a letter he isn’t just writing a personal letter, he is speaking the word of God. It applies as much to me as it does to Timothy.

Sometimes this seems like a big jump to take, to stake your whole life on a letter like this.

I haven’t linked any of these recent posts up on Facebook as I’ve a feeling that some of my friends will think I’m going off the rails spiritually and that partly scares me, and partly annoys me.
I don’t want to try and pick holes in Christianity or the Good News, I just want to know it’s true. But Im afraid some of my more evangelical, reformed friends would say that I’m trying to undermine scripture or that I’m blaspheming. And when that comes into the picture the mental images from childhood of the devil and flames of hell start flooding back, of spending an eternity in eternal condemnation.

The basic thrust of their argument seems to be that you just have to submit and trust that the Bible is the Word of God and trust in that no matter what.

Yet if you know any church leader, even the the most Godly you know that they’re broken people who get things wrong. Even the very best theology books have errors and blind spots, the very best sermons might be incredible but it won’t be perfect.

So how could it be that a personal letter wouldn’t have some errors or be influenced by Paul’s personality for example or his passions, by the blind spots? Or do we just have to submit to the bible without asking any questions of it?

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‘I’m a Paul-ian?’ – married to the minister no.3

That last post might have sounded overly bitter and negative about my circumstances,
as if the Stasi or CIA where outside our house monitoring our every move, which they obviously aren’t.
For example I’m sure that unmarked white van outside the house with the man in a white collar is just fixing the telephone  next door and that camera I found in a rock today was just a child’s toy….
Anyway in true ex youth worker style here is a video clip that I will use to lead into our main discussion even though it hasn’t really anything to do with the discussion


Anyway enough of Rev. Pondering these things has made me realise that the main thought and worry behind these thoughts is what does it mean to be free when you are heavily involved with a church? Can you ever be free?
Is it possible to be yourself or will it always involve wearing a mask and keeping your guard up?

I once did ponder if I should become a Rev myself and went along to a meeting where a bunch of us had assembled to hear the Head of Students of a theological college talk about what it would involve. It was simple process of tests and weekends away, years here, years there, study, study, placements and then eventually a blue shirt and collar. I could see the clones walking out of the building in a robotic ministerial fashion towards the general assembly. Afterwards I went up to him and said

‘I sometimes think that I would like to be a minister but I’m worried that I couldn’t be myself…’

He just dismissed this question as if it was something to be brushed aside and not that relevent. Because of his reaction to this question I decided there and then that I never wanted to become a minister. And that was that until I fell in love and got married and 10 years later wake up on a Sunday and find my wife might be wearing a blue shirt and collar (on special Sundays) or trudging away to youth group or happy that the sermon went well.

This is probably the last thought I have been having about this all (at the moment at least) and it goes way back to as far as I can remember in the Presbyterian church.
Our church often seems to be more obsessed with Paul and his way of doing things rather than Jesus. It is as simple as that sometimes I reckon.

I’m not saying that Paul was a male chauvinist pig and all that stuff, I’m not saying he isn’ t important, I’m not saying that what he writes isn’t the word of God, I’m not saying he isn’t misunderstood etc but from what I’ve seen our church is often based around Paul more than Jesus.

The image I have of Paul is a workaholic who never stopped working for the Gospel,
who always had the answers and had a certain authority because he was a naturally gifted man who had experienced an almighty miracle on the road to Damascus where he was converted.

I have nothing against him, my problem is that we largely think everyone has to be like Paul instead of like Jesus when it comes to a minister type.  Will they bounce around the place from church to church, meeting to meeting? Will they have all the answers? Will they give their life and soul for serving the church just like Paul did?
And if a minister is not like Paul he should be more like Paul.

Again,I’m neither claiming this is theologically correct, balanced or not a pile of crap but this is what I feel sometimes from the years I’ve been a church goer.

An example of this is how vast swathes of the bible, (especially the Prophets)  have been ignored in the pulpit while Romans, Galatians, Corinthians and Timothy get a regular hearing.

When you read the accounts of Paul he never seems to stop doing stuff for God, he is always flying about The Med from one church to another disciplining and encouraging, writing and preaching like some type of  type of Mark Driscollesque Duracell bunny.

And so most ministers/pastors/vicars take their lead from Paul and are expected to take their lead from Paul.
They also seem to be trained in theological college in the ways of Paul and his letters, in Romans and if women should be teaching elders or if the Greek means deacons. They can discuss what he did up on Mars Hill in Athens and most importantly the word Gospel and evangelism. The Gospel is an obession.

Again I am not saying this is wrong, only that it sometimes misses the main point which should be Jesus/God/Holy Spirit.

Is Paul who we should be taking our lead from when it comes to being a minister (and minister’s spouse)? Surely the whole point for us all (and it was for Paul) is that we should become more like Jesus?

Like we pick and choose the bits of other bible characters and would very reluctantly think of them as heroes. We often remember than although King David was a man after God’s own heart he was also a murderer and adulterer.

But because Paul was doing the Lords work and there was such a sense of urgency to it all we don’t ask as many questions of Paul or are slower to spot his sinfulness. It almost feels like Paul is too busy to sin. He is a whirlwind.

I suppose it’s a bit like a blog post.
You could write very true, accurate and mind blowing posts but be a complete disaster of a man.
When Paul told those guys in the church to follow his example he was speaking to people who actually did know him in real life. We are going on his writings and personal letters.

When Paul says follow his example to the church he was writing to was he expecting that someone in theological college nearly 2000 years later should do the same?

The reason that this has anything to do with being married to a minister is that I worry  for my wife but also for relations and good friends who have been called to be ministers.  I worry that we expect them to be like Paul instead of Jesus. The thing is that we know that Jesus is out of our league and we could never be like him so well plead for mercy. With Paul though we think that we might be able to get there if work really hard at the Gospel and doing stuff. We’re not called to take up Paul’s cross and follow him, Paul is not the bread of life or Paul doesn’t say come to me all you who are weak and heavy laden and I will give you rest. Paul won’t give us rest or freedom.

Right back to making rocket stoves.