There is one notable figure from the Bible that I’ve had countless discussions around with many people. It’s the one Biblical person I really struggle with and probably the biggest reason why I often refute the Bible being the emphatic word of God and that figure is Apostle Paul.
I’m sure most know his Biblical story in which he formerly was known as Saul and a terrible persecutor of Christians, that is until one day he became blinded on the road to Damascus, during which time Jesus spoke to him and asked why he continued to persecute his people so vehemently. For three days after that, Saul remained unable to see whatsoever and refused to drink or eat anything because of it, until another man named Ananias became instructed by God to lay his hands upon Saul’s eyes, at which point scales suddenly fell from them, allowing Saul to see again. From thence foreword, Saul would take on the name of Paul and become one of the biggest proponents of Christ.
While I always applaud the story of Paul’s miraculous transformation, the part I struggle with is how I feel Paul went from one extreme to the other. You see as Saul, he walked an angry path of violent persecution of the young Christian church in Jerusalem, going from house to house, dragging men and women off to prison, making sure believers of Christ were found guilty of blasphemy and calling for them to be stoned to death. But then as Paul, while he often said how humbled God made him, he still went from place to place preaching about what he felt to be the exact things needed to follow Christ, almost as if he was now the know-it-all on the subject. And some of those very things that are listed in the Bible as what he said to be God’s truths, are now being used to persecute an entirely different set of people, people that include individuals like me.
Paul’s words state same-sex relations is a sin three separate times in the books he wrote. He also claimed in them that women were meant to remain subservient to men and supported slavery as well, amongst a number of other strong beliefs too. And it’s because of those strong beliefs and that belief of the Bible being the irrefutable truth of God, that followers of Christ now persecute in similar fashion as Saul once did, claiming what they know precisely to be a sin and what is not, persecuting many of God’s children along the way.
A good example of this is a guy I once knew who was formerly a Satanist, regularly worshipping the Devil himself, persecuting anyone who believed in God, but then went through his own transformation that led him to be someone that believed the only way to enter the gates of Heaven was to follow the Bible exactly, which he said included following all of Paul’s beliefs. When I spoke about how I believed that God loved me as a gay individual and accepted me in my monogamous same-sex relationship, he angrily told me that Paul’s words were part of the irrefutable truths of God, which from my perspective, made me feel like I was being persecuted all in the name of God.
But here’s the thing. Paul wasn’t a prophet nor was he God in the flesh. He was nothing more than a man doing his best to rectify his former negative ways of being that highly persecuting and judgmental individual of Christians. In doing so, Paul became flawed like the rest of us do on our own quests to find Christ and God. Where we make claims that we know what someone needs to do to find God, yet in all reality, the only one who should EVER be making that claim is God or Christ themselves.
So, while I honor Paul’s spiritual journey and appreciate the great lengths he went to glorify God after his spiritual transformation, that doesn’t give him or any Christian the right to claim their words are coming from the absolute and irrefutable truths of God just because the Bible says so. Using Paul’s words or the Bible in general in a way that persecutes anyone is the very behaviors that Saul did prior to his conversion and on some level, Paul did himself on his path to rectify his past tyranny.
The fact is, none of us truly know Paul’s story, as he was human with human tendencies, human opinions and human flaws. We don’t know his whole back story, what made him tick, and what “demons” he might have had within him back then. Regardless, we know he did his best to follow Christ and preach on what he felt Christ wanted him to do. But, does that make his words the irrefutable truths of God? No and that is precisely why I struggle with the Apostle Paul and the persecution that has followed in his wake because of the words he left behind in the Bible.
Peace, love, light, and joy,
Andrew Arthur Dawson