Saturday, August 7, 2010

An argument for separating church and state: II Corinthians

II Corinthians is an early Jesusianismist example of why matters of doctrine should be kept separate from the mundane, and clearly labeled: when one throws them all together and stirs vigorously, it becomes impossible to determine which parts are which. The bulk of this epistle reads like private correspondence, in no way useful to anyone except the members of the church at Corinth, and only at that particular time in history. Most of this letter has aged quite badly. Still, with a bit of righteous perseverance, I did find a few points worth mentioning, a few points that were about more than just who has laundry duty this week.
  • Chapter 1, Verses 9 - 11: Paul talks about how he and his companions suffered great hardships in Asia. In their hearts they "felt the sentence of death", but God delivered them, granting them gracious favor. If they believed that they would be with God in bliss after their bodies died, then why didn’t he mention that belief here, a perfect place to mention it. Why didn’t he say something like, "We thought we were going to die, and for that we were happy, not only because we would then be allowed to be with God, but also because nothing happens apart from the will of God." Seems like Paul’s theology doesn’t match that of modern Jesusianismists.
  • Also, what is this in verse 11 about God granting the gracious favor of deliverance from death, in answer to the prayers of the Corinthians? Sounds to me like the Corinthians were praying for Paul’s earthly life to be spared, in arrogant violation of Jesus’ clear instruction on how to pray, specifically the part about "thy will be done".
  • 2:5-11: Forgive and comfort some guy who had committed some unspecified sin. Some Jesusianismists want to say that this is the guy referred to in I Cor 5, the guy who was sleeping with his father’s wife, but I don’t see how Paul could possibly be talking about the same man. In I Cor 5, Paul says, "Hand this man over to Satan, in order that [something (the sinful nature, his body, or the flesh)] may be destroyed, and his spirit saved on the day of the lord." It’s all over for that man, at least concerning his continued membership in that church, and possibly concerning his continued existence as a living human being.
  • And if that’s not enough to convince you that Paul had no intention of ever forgiving this swinger, notice I Cor 5:13, "Expel the wicked man from among you." Here, Paul is paraphrasing some OT commands:
    • Deut 17:7, "You must purge the evil from among you." Let’s be good Jesusianismists and note the context of this command, backing up to Deut 17:2: Yahweh is instructing the Jews on how to treat anyone who worships any god other than Yahweh: "stone that person to death."
    • Deut 19:19, "You must purge the evil from among you." Context: Deut 19:16: if anyone breaks the 9th commandment, the people must perform on him the punishment that his victim would have received had the slanderer been telling the truth.
    • Deut 21:21, "You must purge the evil from among you." Context Deut 21:18: A stubborn and rebellious son who does not obey his father and mother is to be stoned to death.
    • Deut 22:21, "You must purge the evil from among you." Context Deut 22:13: if a girl has sex before she is married, then she is to be stoned to death.
    • Deut 22:24, "You must purge the evil from among you." Context Deut 22:23: if a girl is pledged to be married but sleeps with (or is raped by) a man who is not her betrothed, both the girl and the man are to be stoned to death.
    • Deut 24:7, "If a man is caught kidnapping one of his brother Israelites and treats him as a slave or sells him, the kidnapper must dies. You must purge the evil from among you."
  • I can’t imagine that Paul intended to forgive the guy who had been handed over to Satan.
  • Chapter 5, Verses 2, 4, and 8: Paul makes a big fuss about how Jesusianismists all wish that they could hurry up and be with God, but just a few verses back he was talking about what a great favor it was that God had left them in their human bodies. He can’t seem to make up his mind.
  • Chapter 6, Verse14: "Do not be yoked together with unbelievers." What does this mean? Does it mean that Jesusianismists should not work for companies owned by atheismists? Should not work for companies that hire atheismists? Should not marry atheismists? Untold millions of you fail on all three counts. What does this command really mean, and are you obeying it? If not, then "you have believed in vain."
  • Chapter 8, Verses 3 - 15: "Our desire is not that others might be relieved while you are hard pressed, but that there might be equality. At the present time your plenty will supply what they need, so that in turn their plenty will supply what you need. Then there will be equality, as it is written: "He who gathered much did not have too much, and he who gathered little did not have too little." Teabaggers, Obama-bashers, Socialism-haters, take note.
  • Chapter 9, Verse 7: "Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give…" Poor Ananias and Sapphira; too bad they were Petrine Jesusianismists instead of the Pauline flavor.
  • Chapters 10 - 13: Paul expends a lot of energy defending himself to the Corinthians, trying to convince them that he is the one with the true message, and some other men who have claimed to be apostles are false. But he goes about it all wrong, talking about how he has always been honest, how he has gone through many hardships, on and on. He seems not to see the obvious even when he says it himself, in 12:12: "The things that mark an apostle—signs, wonders and miracles—were done among you with great perseverance."
  • Let’s think about this statement for a moment, shall we? All along, one of the signs that someone was preaching the truth of Christ was his ability to perform SWMs, as when Peter commanded the beggar to be healed in Acts 3:6, when Peter executed Ananias and Sapphira in Acts 5:5-10, when Paul struck Elymas blind in Acts 13:11, and when Paul healed the cripple man in Acts 14:10. So why is it that in II Cor 10 – 13, Paul mentions practically as an aside his copious performances of SWMs to defend his position? Why doesn’t he point out that those speaking against him are performing no SWMs? I can think of only two explanations for him not to mention this. Either (1) no one performed any SWMs, ever, or (2) both true and false apostles were able to perform SWMs. If the former, then why did anyone ever believe Paul, who would have been just another guy with just another interpretation of the Talmud? If the latter, then shouldn’t we assume that these so-called false apostles had something meaningful to say? Shouldn’t we be very unhappy that their teachings have been lost? And why would God enable both camps to perform SWMs if one of the camps was telling lies? I’ve never understood why anyone would think that an SWM would be an indicator that the performer is a messenger of the Supreme Being, anyway.

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